retreat-worthy food: moroccan-inspired couscous

Next up: Moroccan-inspired couscous, or to be more exact, Ottolenghi-inspired couscous.  Besides having written several truly gorgeous and inspiring cookbooks, Yotam Ottolenghi runs several restaurants in London, UK, that venerate vegetables and tastes that reflect his Middle Eastern upbringing.  This recipe is based off of the “Ultimate Winter Couscous” in his book, Plenty.  It was part of our first dinner at the retreat, and is transport-friendly, in that it can be made ahead of time and is delicious served warm or at room temperature.

Ottolenghi couscous

makes 6-8 servings

1/2 of a whole acorn squash
2 zucchini or 3 beets (my original plan was zucchini, but there wasn’t any in the store at the crucial moment, so beets it was)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup (174 g) couscous
1 cup water, boiling
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 bunch mint
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon
3/4 tsp salt

Cut the squash in half, and roast cut-side-down at 400 F in a baking dish that has a little pool of water poured into it.  It’ll take about 30 minutes until it becomes tender and a knife can pierce the skin easily.  Since you will only need half of a squash for this recipe, save the other half for later, perhaps as a mash beside veggies or stirred into a muffin batter.  If you are using the beets, roast them with the skin on, wrapped in foil.  This will take longer, probably 1 hour.

When the squash and beets have been cooked and cool enough to handle, peel the skin off and cut into cubes.  If you are using the zucchini, cut into cubes and pan-fry in vegetable oil until golden brown.  Once the zucchini is cooked, throw in the cubed squash and spices.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the couscous and cover.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then fluff the couscous with a fork.  Toss it with the cooked vegetables, and add the remaining ingredients: raisins, roughly chopped herbs, olive oil, the zest and juice of one lemon, and salt.  I really like how this dish leaves you feeling satisfied, but not heavy – and it’s a great way to enjoy the produce of the fall season!  And, if you are so inclined, this would be so delicious with some feta crumbled on top.  Yeah.

moroccan couscous