Toasted Pearl Couscous with Fried Eggs

Christopher Kimball

Milk Street

“For this vegetarian main, we browned pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous) to give it a toasted-wheat flavor, then cooked it risotto-style for a rich, creamy consistency. The couscous is an ideal base for runny-yolked fried eggs sprinkled with mix of za’atar and sumac. If you like, finish with harissa or hot sauce for a welcome hit of heat and spice to perk up the flavors.”—James Beard Award winner Christopher Kimball


  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon za'atar
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup pearl couscous
  • 1 medium minced shallot
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, 2 minced and 2 smashed and peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions
  • 4 large eggs


In a small bowl, combine the sumac and za'atar. Set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until simmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.

To the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, the shallot and minced garlic. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the shallot has softened, about 1 minute. Return the couscous to the pan, then stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour in 1/2 cup of hot water and cook, stirring, until most of the water is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Repeat this four more times for a total of 2 1/2 cups water, cooking until the couscous is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, lemon juice, and scallions. Taste and season with salt, then cover and set aside.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and the smashed garlic. Cook, stirring and flipping the garlic, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard, then reduce the oil to medium-low. Crack an egg into each quadrant of the pan and use a silicone spatula to gently push the edges of the egg whites toward the yolks to keep the eggs separate. Cover and cook until the whites are set but the yolks are runny, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

To serve: place the couscous in individual bowls, topped with a fried egg and a generous pinch of the sumac mixture.

Note: don't use regular couscous in place of pearl couscous. Regular couscous is much finer, requires different hydration and doesn't have the right chewiness. Also, don't over-toast the couscous. Aim for a light golden brown; toasting beyond that produces a flavor that overwhelms the other ingredients—Julia Rackow


Excerpted from: Milk Street: Tuesday Nights (Little, Brown and Company, 2018). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Connie Miller


Serves 4