Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vegetarian Couscous

My vegetarian couscous is modeled after this epicurious recipe, but as per usual, I make substantial modifications. I wanted to basically cut this in half, as I’m only cooking for two most week nights, but some of the ingredients aren’t easily divisible (I’m looking at you, can of chickpeas), so I eyeballed and guessed and gave it my best shot.

This has become one of our favorite weeknight meals. It comes together in about 20 minutes and achieves that holy grail of cooking: it's equal parts tasty and healthy.

Aside from modifying the proportions, the changes I’ve made include adding the zest of a lemon along with its juice, adding carrot, and omitting the curry powder. I love Indian food, but I hate what’s sold as “curry powder” in grocery stores. When I was about twelve and just beginning my culinary explorations, I dumped two tablespoons of curry powder into a pan of vegetarian Salisbury Steaks and gravy (don’t ask). The results, as you might imagine, were not particularly appetizing.

My family was kind enough to eat this unholy concoction, but it soured me on prepared curry powder forever. If I were more knowledgeable about Indian spices, I could probably work up a reasonable substitute, but this recipe is plenty flavorful as is.

Vegetarian Couscous
¾ cup couscous (I use Trader Joe’s whole wheat couscous -- if you use another kind, the broth/couscous ratio might be different. Check the box.)
1 ½ cups vegetable broth or water (I use water with one 1-cup veggie bouillon cube dissolved in it)
1 red onion, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 cm pieces
¼ cup olive oil, divided
zest and juice of one lemon
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1 plum tomato, diced into small cubes
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Isn't lemon zest lovely?
In large skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion until slightly soft. Add carrots and sauté until onion is very soft and carrot is fully cooked but still firm. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, spices, and salt and pepper.

In a small saucepan, bring vegetable broth or water and remaining two tablespoons olive oil to a boil. Add couscous, stir well, and remove from heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes (or as per directions on the box of your particular brand of couscous).

In the meantime, add drained chickpeas and peas to onion and carrot mixture in the skillet and heat through. When the couscous is done, dump it directly from the saucepan into the skillet and and mix thoroughly with veggies. Add the tomato, almond, and raisins, fold in, and you are ready to serve.This probably makes enough for 3-4 as a main dish. It fills up the husband and me and provides leftovers for at least one lunch. One could probably use diced cooked chicken or turkey in place of chick peas if making it meatless were not a priority.

Printable recipe here.

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