Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bittman's vegetarian couscous

About a week or so ago JaneAnne sent me the couscous recipe from Mark Bittman's new cookbook. And then Lori invited me over to cook in her (much more spacious and attractive than mine) kitchen. This seemed just the thing. Stews practically cook themselves and can usually survive a certain amount of neglect while the cooks socialize. Even better, it would meet with her vegetarian daughter's approval.

JaneAnne suggests adding the zucchini in after the carrots and squash have cooked a bit. I would also consider eliminating the cayenne altogether if you're making this for kids. At the spice-cooking stage I had an entire apartment of people choking and then the dish turned out a little too spicy for the kids to enjoy (including the vegetarian, damn!). We doubled the recipe and I think I may have also added extra squash (butternut and kubocha). I cooked the squash until it turned into mush, but I happen to like it that way.

Another advantage to a stew is that you can easily add or subtract ingredients. JaneAnne has added chicken (browned separately, first) and sweet potatoes and left out the red bell pepper, for example. The notes on the recipe are hers.

Thanks to JaneAnne for sending the recipe, and thanks to Lori for letting us invade her home and fill it with North African couscous! This is her photo above. The little Hare Krishna is blessing the meal for us.

From The Best Recipes in the World, by Mark Bittman

Couscous with Vegetables
North Africa
Makes 4 servings
Time 1 hour (with precooked or canned chickpeas)

A hearty, delicious vegetable stew, whose ingredients can be varied however you like. Chickpeas and squash--both summer (zucchini) and winter (pumpkin or butternut)--are the most commonly included vegetables.

4 T butter or extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped (I actually chop them finely so you don't get any kid-unfriendly big onion chunks, and I only used one onion)
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
1 T peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 large pinch saffron threads or 1/2 t ground turmeric
1/4 t cayenne, or to taste
1 t ground coriander
3 cloves
1/2 t ground cinnamon
4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 lb winter squash, like butternut or pumpkin, trimmed and cut into chunks
2 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
1 C or more (definitely more--more like 3-4 C) chicken, beef or vegetable stock, preferable homemade, or water
2 C cooked or canned chickpeas (one can, drained, was plenty)
1/2 C raisins (golden I think are best)
Couscous, prepared according to directions

1. Put the butter in a large saucepan or flameproof casserole with a lid over medium heat. A minute or two later, add the onions and bell pepper, along with a couple of pinches of salt and at least 1/2 t black pepper (you should really taste the pepper in this dish). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are quite tender, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger, saffron, cayenne, coriander, cloves and cinnamon and stir.

2. Add the carrots, winter squash and zucchini, along with a cup of stock. Turn the heat to low, cover, and adjust the head so the mixture simmers steadily. Cook until the carrots are tender, 20 to 30 minutes, checking and adding a bit more liquid if the mixture threatens to dry out. Add the chickpeas and raisins and cook for another 10 minutes, adding liquid if the mixture is dry, raising the heat and boiling some of it off if the mixture seems too soupy (it should be like a stew).

3. Taste and adjust the seasoning; the flavors of black pepper and cayenne should be pronounced. Serve immediately over the couscous.


Writermama said...

Bittman loves the hell out of cayenne. It appears a lot in his recipes. Have you seen this kind of idiosyncratic quirk among cookbook authors? That said, the recipe sounds nice!

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the cayenne--I should have warned you. I only used a pinch, and thought the flavor was just right.

I haven't noticed lots of cayenne in Bittman's recipes, but then I only regularly use a few of them, and you don't see much cayenne generally in things like pie crust and quiche. :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should say this as someone married to a Moroccan, but...I HATE COUSCOUS! There. I've said. Not only because of the taste/texture, but the sheer labor that goes into fluffing couscous grains with the MIL using only rarified sour butter.

Go ahead and say, "I divorce you" three times, Mohamed, I dare you to violate our marriage contract. That said, I'm expecting the second Bittman book as I did love the first one, couscous notwithstanding.