April 28th, 2021

belzoni

[RECIPE] The Luck of Morocco

I first made this (or its precursor) about a decade ago during the year that, inspired to frenzy by Paula Wolfert's superb Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, I taught myself a whole bunch of Moroccan recipes. (I was also inspired by eating Moroccan merguez sausage in San Francisco and buying a jar of preserved lemons which, it turns out, you should not try to take through the airport scanner in 2010 or any other year.) This seven-vegetable tagine varies place by place in Morocco; my specific version here borrows from Fez and from Casablanca, as far as I can figure.

Seven is lucky, so seven vegetables makes a luck-bringing dish. For extra luck, you make it with seven spices. (Note: For this specific luck, I'm not counting the turmeric in the couscous as a spice in the tagine, and I'm not counting the chickpeas as vegetables. But feel free to honor Moroccan Arioch with 8-vegetable, 8-spice tagine if you wish.) Although I call it a tagine, I make this recipe in a deep saucepan not an actual tagine (in fact, I don't bother covering the saucepan is how un-tagine it is). Also, to complete my litany of shame, I just use the instant couscous for the same reason I don't make my own pasta. Sloth. Sloth is the reason.

7-VEGETABLE, 7-SPICE "TAGINE" OVER COUSCOUS

FOR THE TAGINE

2 TB olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 CUP white or green cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
Salt to taste

1 TB tomato paste

1 big pinch saffron, bloomed in hot water
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 medium turnip, peeled & diced
1/2 CUP golden raisins
~1 LB butternut squash, peeled & diced
~2 cups of chicken stock (or substitute vegetable stock if you want)
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thin
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes

1/3 CUP parsley, chopped

FOR THE COUSCOUS

1.5 CUPS instant couscous (not pearled/Israeli couscous)
1.25 CUPS water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
2 TB butter
1 tsp turmeric

Chop the vegetables fairly small, because you want them to cook through fairly rapidly, but not so small that they get mushy.

Heat oil in a large deep saucepan over medium until shimmery, then saute the onions until slightly softened (4 MINS). Add the cabbage and carrots, and a dash of salt, and saute for another 6 MINS. Clear out a little space in the bottom of the pan and add the tomato paste; let it cook unmolested (deep umami building here) for 1-2 MINS then stir it into the onions along with the seven spices. Cook the spices for 2 MINS.

Add the turnip, raisins, and squash along with another dash of salt and about a cup of the stock; simmer for 10 MINS. Add more stock as needed to keep the texture stew-like without ever becoming soupy. Add the zucchini, chickpeas,and tomatoes; simmer for 5-10 MINS, tasting the squash for doneness.

While the vegetables simmer away, make the couscous. Set the water to boil in a small pot with a lid, adding salt and oil. Remove boiling water from heat, mix in the couscous, and cover the pot. Let the couscous sit and absorb the water for ~5 MINS. Then return to low heat and, using a fork, stir in the butter and turmeric.

Stir the parsley into the vegetables, and do a final taste for salt. You might want to add a little (1/2 TB or less) red wine vinegar if you don't feel the flavors are bright enough.

Dish up couscous in a mound with a "well" in the middle and ladle on the vegetables. Revel in your double luck!

NOTE ON VEGETABLES

You can swap out the vegetables with fair abandon -- the original recipes usually call for pumpkin instead of butternut squash, but then you have a LOT of leftover pumpkin so you'd better have a killer kaddu bourani recipe handy. Or you could use acorn squash, spaghetti squash, or any other similar gourd if you prefer. I like the sweetness of butternut squash in this dish, and between it and the raisins I don't need to add sugar (which some recipes do). Other swap-outs that I've seen include fennel, sweet potatoes, fava beans (instead of chickpeas), and so on.