"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, December 20, 2013

Recipes–Moroccan Couscous

Most good recipes result from luck, inspiration, and leftovers in the refrigerator.  For years I have tried to make an interesting, tasty, and memorable couscous, but I have failed each and every time.  The sauce never comes out like the rich Moroccan varieties I have had in Fez and Rabat, nor the West African dishes offered in Bamako or Ouagadougou.

Yesterday I was feeling lazy, and wanted to make a vegetable-based main course to leaven the heavy roast pork dish I made the night before; and I reluctantly thought of couscous.  I had some pasta sauce in the freezer, and cutting up a few vegetables would be easy. However, what I made was delicious! First, the sauce I used – a squid- and tuna-based tomato sauce was exactly the right base to which more traditional ingredients like prunes, raisons, and cinnamon could be added.  Second, I used organic, local carrots – the weirdly-shaped, multi-colored varieties found in farmers’ markets.  Third, I added lots of ‘sweet’ spices – cloves, cinnamon, and honey – to augment the raisins and prunes.  Fourth, I boiled the vegetables in chicken stock and then used the remaining liquid for the couscous (semolina) itself.

Sorry, the recipe is rather complicated – not complex, and very easy to master.  It simply has a lot of steps. Your patience will be rewarded!

Moroccan-style Couscous


* 1 can San Marzano tomatoes

* 1/2 can tomato paste

* 1 can solid white tuna

* 1 can Vigo Squid in Ink (you can use Vigo Octopus in oil as well)

* 5-6 lg. cloves garlic, chopped

* 1 lg. handful fresh basil

* 1 Tbsp. dried basil

* 1 cup red wine

* 1 Tbsp. sugar

* 2 tsp. fish sauce

* 2-3 shakes Tabasco sauce (more if you like it hot)

* 1 small sliver of cinnamon

* 5 cloves

* 5-10 prunes

* 1/2 cup raisins

* 2 lg. peels of a fresh orange

* 1 Tbsp. honey


* 5-6 lg. local carrots, cut into 2” pieces

* 2 lg. turnips, quartered

* 1 lg. onion, quartered

* 2 lg. sticks celery, 2” pieces


* 1 box couscous

* 2 cups of chicken broth (used for boiling vegetables)

* 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds (for final garnish)


- Sauté the garlic in olive oil for about 5 min. over med. heat

- Add the fresh basil, stir

- Add the tuna and squid with their liquids, stir 

- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and sugar, stir

- Cook for about 3 hours over low heat, stirring every 45 minutes or so. The sauce is done when it is thick and full-flavored to the taste

- Reserve HALF of the sauce, and use the other half for the remainder of the recipe

- To the half portion of sauce, add the cinnamon, cloves, prunes, raisins, honey, hot sauce, and orange peel

- Stir well and let cook for about 1 hour.  The sauce should be even thicker, but not semi-solid. Turn off the heat.

- Boil the vegetables in approx. 3 cups of chicken broth.  The turnips and onions cook more quickly than the carrots, so be sure to take them out first. The carrots should be done in about 15 minutes.  Remove the carrots when done.

- Prepare the couscous according to instructions on the box, using the chicken broth.


- Make a bed of couscous on a large platter, layer it with vegetables, and spread the tomato sauce on top.  Garnish with toasted almonds and a few grindings of fresh pepper and serve.

NOTE: The picture above is approximately what your recipe should look like without the chick peas which you can add, and with less tomato sauce.  It should give you an idea.


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