Monday, January 11, 2010

Moroccan Couscous with 8 Vegetables and Tfaya

Mark and I tried to see Avatar on Sunday, but of course, it was sold out by the time we got there. (No, we didn't think of buying our tickets ahead of time, as we rarely ever go out to the movies.) So when we got back home I started flipping through TV channels, when I came upon the Create TV cooking show Gourmet Adventures with Ruth. Described as a show in which viewers can "travel the globe alongside host and editor/food icon Ruth Reichl, her Gourmet colleagues, and celebrity guests as they visit exotic cooking schools and experience the local foods and traditions," it certainly looked interesting to me! In this episode, actress Lorraine Bracco was traveling with Ruth through Morocco and learning how to prepare some of the local cuisine. I landed on this channel just as she was learning the fine art of making couscous from scratch from a lovely old woman. It whetted my appetite for couscous.

Couscous is made from two different sizes of the husked, crushed, unground semolina. Creating this delicate little grain before it can even be cooked is a painstaking process still performed in the traditional handmade fashion, only in rural villages. First the couscous is formed by rubbing and rolling together large grains of hard wheat semolina with finer grains in a large earthenware platter sprayed with salted water to raise the humidity of the semolina. Then the couscous is dried in a midūna, a latticework basket made of palm or esparto grass. Next it is transferred to a finer weave basket for more drying. After a short time, the couscous is returned to the midūna for more rolling. Then it is sieved numerous times to form a uniform grain. The couscous is then left for four or five days to dry in the sun with occasional light sprays of water. It must be completely dry before storing or cooking.

During this episode, I was reminded of the spicy delicacy, tfaya, which I can only remember having eaten once many years ago. This delectable topping of caramelized onions and raisins pairs beautifully with couscous, and was easily made fat-free without the butter traditionally used, and without detriment to the flavor.

You can find a similar couscous recipe to this one all over the internet that is made with seven vegetables, instead of eight (if you include garbanzo beans in the vegetable group). But I love parsnips and couldn't resist adding them to mine. This dish is so rich and flavorful, you won't believe it doesn't contain a drop of added fat.

Couscous Ingredients:

1 medium red onion
2 Tbs. vegetable broth
4 cups vegetable broth
2 carrots, peeled
2 parsnips, peeled
2 turnips, peeled
1 sweet potato, peeled
1 zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
pinch of saffron
pinch of curry
2 cups couscous grains


Cut all of the vegetables into large, bite-size chunks. In a large pot, sauté onion in 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth until lightly browned. Add the rest of the broth, and bring to a boil. Add carrots, parsnips, turnips, and sweet potato. Simmer for 15 minutes. Lower heat, and add zucchini and pepper. (At this point, prepare tfaya, or it can be prepared in advance and reheated before serving.) Cook vegetables for 20 minutes more. Then add beans, tomato sauce, and spices. Stir to combine, and cook until heated through.

In a separate small pot, bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 5-7 minutes, fluff with a fork and serve with vegetables and tfaya on top.

Tfaya Ingredients:

2 large red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup raisins, soaked in water for 15 minutes, then drained
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled


Mix the sliced onions, raisins, agave, and spices in a medium saucepan. Add the water, cover, and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering for a half hour or longer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and golden. Add more water only if the liquids evaporate before the onions are cooked. Once the onions are cooked and richly colored, reduce the liquids to a thick syrup. Turn off the heat, and set the caramelized onions aside. If prepared in advance, reheat the onions just prior to serving.


joon said...

Now I'm hungry, and it's nowhere near lunchtime!

Anonymous said...

I love Middle Eastern cuisine, and this looks sensational!

jessica said...

Wow, this looks good! Cinnamon, ginger, saffron? How fragrantly delicious it must be!

Anonymous said...

Oh, this looks delicious! My parents are coming over for dinner this weekend, and I was stressing over what to make. This will be perfect!

Albert said...


Justine said...

This looks as gorgeous as it sounds delicious!