Vegetable Couscous

Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth: Season One: Peggy Markel's Morocco

  • Active time:1 1/2 hr
  • Start to finish:1 1/2 hr
Adapted from Bahija Lafridi, Jnane Tamsna Hotel
November 2009
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For broth

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 large cilantro sprigs
  • 6 large parsley sprigs
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and halved crosswise and lengthwise
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled and quartered
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 lb long, thin eggplants (2 to 3), halved crosswise, then halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 medium green cabbage, cut into 4 wedges, then halve wedges crosswise
  • 1 lb medium zucchini, trimmed, halved crosswise, then halved lengthwise
  • 1 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups (1 1/2 lb) medium grain couscous
  • 1/4 cup Argan or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted skinned almonds
  • Accompaniment

    tfaya and harissa
  • Make broth

    Lightly toast saffron in a dry small heavy skillet over moderately low heat, shaking skillet, just until fragrant, about 1 minute, then transfer to a small dish, let cool then crumble saffron with fingers.
  • Halve tomatoes and grate flesh on large round holes of a box grater, discarding skin.
  • Put oil, onions, ginger, turmeric, tomato paste, cilantro and parsley sprigs, saffron, grated tomatoes, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper in lower portion of couscoussière (or in 5- to 6-quart pot) and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onions are softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Add carrots and turnips to pot and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add water and then bring to a simmer.
  • In a 4-quart saucepan combine eggplants and 2 cups water and simmer, covered, until eggplants are tender, about 10 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use.
  • Make couscous

    While broth comes to a simmer, put couscous in a large wide bowl and drizzle with 1/4 cup oil, rubbing grains between your palms to distribute oil. Sprinkle couscous with 1 cup tepid water, rubbing until water is absorbed. Place couscous into top portion of couscoussière or colander (if using a colander or steamer, line with cheesecloth) in an even, loose layer without packing.
  • Set couscous over simmering broth and steam, covered, 15 minutes. (If steam is escaping through the space between the pot and the steamer [or stockpot and colander], wrap with a strip of damp cheesecloth or damp kitchen towel to prevent steam from escaping.)
  • Transfer couscous to bowl and drizzle with 1 1/2 cups water and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt. Let stand until cool enough to handle, then gently rub couscous between palms to break up any lumps and incorporate water.
  • Add cabbage to broth in couscoussière and return to a simmer.
  • Return couscous to top of couscoussière, wrapping, if necessary, to prevent steam from escaping. Steam a second time, covered, 15 minutes.
  • Transfer couscous to a bowl again and drizzle 2 cups water over couscous. Let stand until cool enough to handle, and gently rub couscous between palms. Add zucchini and butternut squash to broth and return to a simmer. To prevent vegetables from breaking apart, do not stir. Return couscous to top of couscoussiere, and steam for third and final time, covered, as before, 15 minutes.
  • Transfer couscous to bowl and drizzle with argan or olive oil. When couscous is cool enough to handle, rub between palm to break up any lumps and incorporate oil.
  • Reheat eggplant in saucepan, then drain, discarding liquid.
  • Mound the couscous on a large platter making a depression in center. Spoon tfaya into depression in couscous and arrange vegetables and chick peas over couscous. Season broth in pot with salt to taste, then ladle about 2 cups broth over vegetables and couscous to moisten. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve bowls of harissa and remaining broth on the side.
Cooks' Note: Broth can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat before proceeding with recipe.Couscous can be made 2 hours ahead and kept warm, covered.If you dont have a couscoussière or a large stock pot, you can use a 6- to 8-quart pot to cook the vegetable stew, and a second pot to steam the couscous over water, such as a wide pot fitted with a colander or a pasta pot fitted with the pasta/steamer insert. If holes in the colander or steamer are large, line with a double layer of cheesecloth. If using this method, cook the stew partially covered.
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