Jeff & Linda's Kitchen of Diversity
Winter Squash and Greens Couscous -- Djerba, Tunisia
The peoples along the southern shore of the Mediterranian are also great devotees of spring greens, and in this recipe these greens are used in a wonderful couscous. We've adapted the version presented below from a meat-based recipe appearing in Paula Wolfert's Mediterranian Grains and Greens. In this case we've just left out the fish and replaced it with marinated potato chunks. This is a very frugal meal, as you steam the couscous and vegetables over the spiced tomato broth (served along side as a sauce), giving them a wonderful, subtle flavor of tomato, garlic and spices. Whatever broth is left over can be easily made into a wonderful salad dressing by adding 2 parts broth to 2 parts olive oil to 1 part wine vinegar.
You'll note that the recipe calls for harissa, a spiced chile paste characteristic of north Africa. While it is easy to make, showing you how to do this now is beyond the scope of this month's recipes. We promise to do this at some point in the future. If you'd like to make your own, track down the recipe from Elisabeth Luard's cookbook, Saffron & Sunshine. Or, you can buy harissa from most Middle Eastern groceries. One one-line source is at the Spanish Table.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup minced onion
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup tomato paste
2-inch cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon dried mint
2 teaspoons harissa
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced
8 cups stock
In the bottom of your steamer pot, sauté the onion in olive oil over low heat until light yellow. Add in garlic, cumin, salt and tomato paste and stir over heat for 1-2 minutes. Add cinnamon, mint, harissa, green pepper and 1 cup stock. Cook until the peppers are soft. Add the remaining stock and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
1 pound medium or small couscous
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons harissa
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup sliced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds waxy boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled, and cut into 2” pieces
1 pound small turnips, peeled and quartered
1 pound of peeled and cored winter squash cut into 2” cubes
1 pound spinach, cut into thin shreds
2 bunches flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Rinse couscous under running water, and let sit until grains swell, about 10 minutes.
Toss the cubed potatoes with garlic, harissa, tomato paste, onion, and olive oil and set aside.
Line a steamer basket with a tea towel, and pour in the soaked couscous. Break up any lumps with your fingers, and wrap with the edges of the tea towel. Place the basket over the simmering tomato broth, cover, and let steam for 20 minutes.
Move couscous into a wide bowl. Break up any lumps while mixing in 1 cup of tomato broth removed from the simmering pot plus 1 teaspoon salt.
Place carrots and turnips into the remaining simmering tomato broth and bring back to a boil. Place a steamer tray on top of the simmering broth, and add in the marinated potatoes and squash. Place a second tray on top of the first, lay a tea towel in the bottom, and fill with the couscous, Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the couscous tray and place shredded spinach and chopped parsley over the potatoes and squash. Return the couscous tray and continue steaming for another 15 minutes or until the potatoes and squash are tender.
Move the couscous into a wide serving dish and fluff with a fork. Adjust the seasoning for the tomato broth with salt and pepper, and then gradually moisten the couscous with 2 cups of the tomato broth. Mix well, cover, and let stand 15 minutes. Remove carrot and turnip chunks from the tomato broth and place over the couscous. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard. Arrange potatoes, squash, and greens over the couscous as well. Pour remaining tomato broth into a tureen, and serve with the couscous.
We recommend that you use Syrian Three-Sided Peppers, a pungent onion like Juane Paille des Vertus, White Egg Turnips, sweet, fat Chantenay Carrots, a Curcurbita maxima winter squash like Iran or Marina di Chioggia, Giant Noble Spinach, Giant Italian Parsley, and a nutty Creole garlic like Moroccan.