Saturday, March 7, 2015

Vegetable CousCous

I stressed over what to have for Purim way more than I should have.  For one thing, it was just me.  For another, I cook vegetarian or vegan at least once a week.  One presentation-level vegetarian entrée shouldn't have been that hard.  All I knew was that I wanted to use up the rest of the dried chickpeas in the pantry.  I should not have obsessed over "What did Esther eat?" every visit to the grocery store for a month.  She would only have recognized about half of the ingredients in this stew, which tends more toward north African.  So I had some dates with it.  I know she ate those: dates have been popular in Persia for millennia.

I opened one of my recently canned pints of tomatoes for this!  I know, it's kind of silly to can something and use it less than two weeks later.  There's still a pint and a half for another day.

2 C low-salt vegetable stock, divided
1 15 oz can no-salt-added tomatoes (your choice of whole, cut, diced, etc)
1 medium eggplant, cut up in 1" cubes
*2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1" cubes
1/2 lb spinach, chopped
*1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained; or 2/3 C dried chickpeas, soaked 18 hours and simmered for 2-3
1 onion, chopped
1 Tb olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of saffron
*1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and white pepper to taste
*1/4 tsp turmeric
*1/4 tsp paprika or chili powder
1 C dry couscous

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and celery and cook until softened.  Add garlic and continue to cook one minute, until fragrant.  Add eggplant, potato, and 1 C broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover.  Cook 30 min, until all vegetables are tender.  I know it doesn't look like there's enough liquid, but there will be plenty once the eggplant cooks.

2.  Add chickpeas, tomatoes (including their water), spinach, and all of the seasonings except salt and pepper.  Crush the saffron threads a bit as they go in the pot.  I saved a bit to add to the couscous broth.  Bring stew to a simmer and allow to cook while you make the couscous.

3.  For the couscous, there are directions on the package, but I used 1 C of broth to 1 C of dry pasta because the stew will bring more moisture once it's all on the platter.  Bring the broth to a boil, stir in dry pasta, cover, and remove from heat.  Let sit at least 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

4.  Taste stew and add salt and white pepper as necessary.  To plate, arrange couscous in a ring on platter.  Spoon stew into middle using a slotted spoon to drain off some of the cooking liquid.  If it looks too dry once it's on the plate, ladle on a bit of the stock.  Serve hot.

Makes 4 generous servings, 6 as a side dish

Difficulty rating  π

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