Saturday, February 19, 2022

ChezCindy: North African Couscous and Sautéed Vegetables


Couscous is a time-saving dream for a busy day, ready in minutes to serve a hungry family.  It is derived from coarsely ground semolina flour, formed into tiny pellets.  Standard cooking method for couscous is to simply add it to water or broth that has been brought to a boil and removed from the heat, covered for roughly 5 minutes until the tiny pellets become hydrated.  The couscous takes on the flavor of the broth or seasoned water.  

In this recipe I use a North African spice blend known as Ras el Hanout.  This phrase means "top of the shop" meaning that in traditional spice markets, this is a spice blend created by the head spice maker.  Each version can vary to the preference of the spice maker, but most contain cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried peppers, and turmeric.  Once you become familiar with the name, you will notice that Ras el Hanout is available in most grocers or specialty shops.  

The recipe is plentiful with leftovers for another meal.  I served the couscous with the chicken burger and tzatziki sauce I recently posted.  It was hearty and delicious.  

Spiced Couscous with Sautéed Vegetables 
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large broccoli stalk, cut into florets and the stalk cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 orange or red bell pepper cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces 
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth

Equipment needed:  Large 12–14-inch skillet with a lid

Working with a large skillet over medium-high heat, place 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan, swirling to cover the bottom.  Add in the broccoli florets, stalks and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, tossing to cover with the oil cooking for 7-10 minutes to soften and begin to add a bit of browning to the broccoli.  Transfer the broccoli to a bowl, setting aside.

Add 2 additional tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet.  Add in the zucchini, bell pepper and red onion, plus 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Toss together, sautéing until just tender, about 6-7 minutes.  Sprinkle in the Ras el Hanout and garlic, stirring to combine for about 30 seconds.  Add in the couscous, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the pre-cooked broccoli, tossing and combining with the vegetables in the pan, cooking all together for 1-2 minutes to toast the couscous.  Turn off the heat, add in the vegetable broth, cover and let sit until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 5-6 minutes.  Season as needed with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Serve hot or room temperature.   

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