April 1, 2010

The Last (Moroccan) Meal

No April Fool’s Day joke here, my friends.  This is truly the last of the recipes from the low sodium, highly organic, and super flavorful Moroccan feast.  May I introduce to you the evening’s piece de resistance: vegetable couscous and lemon, chicken tagine.

I have to admit that, for a while now, vegetable couscous has been a quick-fix favorite of mine.  Couscous is very easy to cook and it is a wonderfully forgiving grain.  You can mix whatever veggies you have in your fridge with a few spices and a cup of couscous, and you’ve got yourself something hearty and nutritious in a matter of minutes.  Because of its  sponge-like properties, couscous also does a great job of soaking up the juices from the ingredients.  As a result, your final product is filled to the brim with deep, rich flavors.

So when I actually give my couscous the time and attention it deserves, you can only imagine how good it can taste. There are three ingredients that I find crucial to creating lip-smacking, seconds-please Moroccan couscous: dried fruit (mostly apricots), freshly diced tomatoes, and lamb chop on the bone.  I am not sure what chemical reaction goes on when these three items simmer together, but the results are to die for.  The juice from the tomatoes is essential to creating a flavorful broth. The apricots lend a sweetness to the heavier flavors.  And the lamb on the bone slowly leeches natural, savory notes. Together, their flavors make a perfect, low sodium stock that gets richer with every minute it cooks.

With that trifecta in hand, you can truly add whatever vegetables you want to the mix.  I tend to go with firmer produce, like cauliflower and carrots, that will stand up to the longer cooking time.  But zucchini, squash, and peppers work well too.

After devouring this final entree, you’ll want to treat yourself to a rest on a bed of brightly colored pillows, where you can sip on steaming mint tea and dream of nights in Marrakech.  Or you could just rent Casablanca and call it an evening.  Either way, the mix of sweet and savory and colorful vegetables will quickly transport you to this exotic location.  Chow on.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup of cauliflower, broken into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried apricot
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1-2 lamb chops on bone

Directions:

1. In a large pot, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium flame.  Add the onions and cook until translucent – 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add zucchini, cauliflower, and carrots to the pot and saute for 5-10 minutes, slightly browning the vegetables.  Add the tomatoes and allow the pot, and all the yummy juices, to come to a light simmer.

3. In a separate pan, heat the other teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Quickly brown the lamb – about 5 minutes on each side – and add the whole chops to the pot of veggies.

4. Add the turmeric, cayenne, curry, paprika, raisins and apricots. Bring to a simmer again and cook for 20 minutes.  Stir frequently so the bottom does not get burned as the juices reduce.

5. In a separate, smaller pot, bring the water to a boil.  Once it is bubbling, add your couscous and take off the heat.  Stir for 5 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the couscous is fluffy.

6. When ready to serve, take the lamb out of the pot and cut into bite sized pieces.  Add them back to the vegetables.  Then, either scoop the couscous into a bowl and top with veggies OR mix couscous in directly with the veggies.  Top with some fresh cilantro and enjoy.

7. For an additional variation, leave out the lamb and make this lemon chicken tagine.  Before serving, add a few scoops of the chicken to your couscous.

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