Tuesday, December 6, 2011
One of the things I love about my daytime hours alone during the school year is lunchtime. I heat up leftovers or fry an egg; maybe make a sandwich or a salad. Whatever. The important part is that I sit and enjoy it, without anyone asking me to pour him another cup of milk, with nobody getting up to get the ketchup. I do love our family dinners, with all their raucousness, as much as I love my solitary lunches spent looking out the window watching the birds, the changes in light, the water traffic.
Tuesdays Abbott has hockey in the evening, so when I have time, I cook dinner during the daytime. That way, when we’re in a rush to get to practice, we have something good to eat before we go. This morning I made a couscous dish from one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, Plenty. It’s hearty and warming and one of the most delicious vegetarian dishes I’ve ever had. I could taste the smoky flavor of the harissa through the fog of my cold.
the ultimate winter cousous
from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
8 shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp hot paprika
1/4 tsp chile flakes
2 1/2 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (from a 10-oz squash)
1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
1 1/2 cups chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
1 cup couscous
Large pinch of saffron
1 cup boiling vegetable stock
3 tbsp butter, broken into pieces
2 tbsp harissa
1 oz preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 cups cilantro leaves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large ovenproof dish or rimmed baking sheet. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of the oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt and all other spices and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the pumpkin or squash, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes, until the vegetables should have softened but before they are mushy. Add the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes.
About 15 minutes before the vegetables will be ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in.
To serve, spoon the couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and chopped preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add more salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the center of the couscous. Top with a good amount of cilantro leaves.
Yield: 4 servings