Coriander, lemon, and four kinds of vegetables make a mouth-watering vegetarian couscous.
Natural locavores, good Middle Eastern cooks take pleasure in seeking out the very best and freshest vegetables in the open-air markets, transforming inexpensive local ingredients into delicious traditional foods. Some examples include mulukhiya (our mulukhiya recipe here) and couscous.
While couscous is often served with meat of one kind or another for gala events, homey vegetarian versions are served as everyday fare. Here, couscous is a foil to vegetables carefully seasoned with herbs and spices, while chickpeas add satisfying protein.
A whole preserved lemon (our recipe for preserved lemons here) adds bright flavor to the light stew.
Lemon-Scented Vegetarian Couscous
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one whole lemon
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne flakes, according to taste
4 tomatoes, quartered
2 red bell peppers, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1 walnut-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
2 zucchini, sliced thickly
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey or date honey
1 preserved lemon, chopped
A handful coriander, chopped
In a large saucepan, heat the the olive oil . Add the lemon juice, tomato puree, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne flakes, tomatoes and bell peppers. Stir well. Lower the flame to the lowest and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
Add the almonds, dried apricots, ginger, and garlic. Stir well. Cook a further 15 minutes, always on very low heat.
Finally add the chickpeas and zucchini and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the zucchini are cooked through. Just before serving, add the preserved lemons, honey and chopped coriander; mix them in well.
Make couscous according to package instructions. Spoon the vegetables over a mound of prepared couscous and serve.
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