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Monday, November 19, 2007

Moroccan Couscous

My Christmas list is growing. I was determined to preempt the inevitable scented lotions and the way-too-femme-for-me handbags by having a simple, reasonable list of essential and inexpensive cooking supplies to guide friends and family through the process buying me a Christmas present.

My list started out as a simple cast iron skillet and a decent chef knife.

It has quickly blossomed into luxuries that are both expensive and hardly necessary. Amid the Williams and Sonoma glass spice jars, the microplane zesters, and baking stones, there is the tagine. My Moroccan Couscous has allowed my shameless consumerism to get the best of me, and I truly believe that owning a tagine will fundamentally change my life.

A tagine is both a dish and the clay vessel that it is cooked in. It's generally a meat thing, because the shape of the bowl allows the meat to get ridiculously tender. But I happen to love the thought of a bubbling eggplant and mushroom ragout, with the juices seeping into to a lemon or fruit scented couscous, all inside an earthy, red pot.

My Moroccan-style couscous was hardly that. It was, however, warm, hearty, and cooked up in one big pot. The generous amounts of Syrian mix and orange juice saved the day, because it started out terribly bland, all because I was too lazy to toast the almonds. Will I ever learn?

This is may be more onion-y that some would like, but I found that they polished off the dish so well. It was on the verge of being too sweet, and the onions reminded me that I was eating dinner, not dessert.

Moroccan-style couscous

5cups couscous
1 cup toasted almond slivers
2 cups golden raisins
2 large onions
1/4 c. olive oil
1 oranged, halved
2 bay leaves
1 large cinnamon stick
a little bit of crushed red pepper
lots of syrian mix aka 7 spice

[Arabic 7 spice (bokharat) is mixture of spices you can buy ready at any Middle Eastern grocery. basically everything you would find in a pumpkin pie, plus black pepper, cumin and coriander. Basically, love in a spice jar.]

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Toss in the almonds and push em around until they are browned. Add onions, and sauté until translucent. Add in couscous and raisins and cover with water until there is about 1 inch of water above the couscous. Cover and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, squeeze in the juice of 1 orange, scoop out all the seeds, and put the orange halves in the pot. Add lots of syrian mix, the cinnamon stick, the bay leaves, the red pepper and salt, give it a swirl, and cover until couscous is steamed. Fluff with a fork, incorporating all the spices.

Top with a pat of butter while still hot.

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