Recipe : Seven Vegetable Couscous

This has been one of my favorite dishes for years — it's a great way to use up vegetable odds-and-ends for two, and It's super easy to scale up for a dinner party, especially if you're expecting a mixed crowd of vegetarians and omnivores. It's nutritious and filling on its own, and pairs well with added protein, from tinned sardines to grilled chicken or lamb.

Originally hailing from Casablanca and served on Fridays, my version is a simplified adaptation of a recipe by the great Claudia Roden in her book Arabesque. The number 7 is for luck, but you don't have to feel tied to that number, and in fact which vegetables count towards the 7 is often debated. Do the aromatics like onion and garlic count? What about the chickpeas? I say, use whatever collection of vegetables you like and have on hand, changing the recipe for the seasons as needed, with a thought to having a pleasing mix of colors and textures. Fresh peas are lovely in the springtime, more tomatoes and zucchini and maybe okra in the summer, and of course root vegetables in the winter. Below is just a suggestion.

Seven Vegetable Couscous

Serves 4

For the stew :
2 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil
1 medium onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cayenne (optional)
4 cups water or stock
salt to taste (start with a tsp)
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large tomato, diced, or 1 14-oz can tomatoes
1 small rutabaga, peeled and diced OR 1 bunch small turnips, halved or quartered
1 small sweet potato, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1/4 kabocha or small pumpkin, peeled and diced
about 3 cups of green cabbage, sliced and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 zucchini, diced
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained
chopped cilantro, for garnish
pickles or olives, for garnish (optional)
freshly-ground black pepper

In a soup pot or dutch oven, warm your oil over medium heat. Add the onions, cooking until translucent, then the garlic and spices, stirring well and cooking until fragrant. Add your water or stock and a good dash of salt to start, then add the carrots, tomato, rutabaga (if using small turnips instead, hold them until later), and sweet potato. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes to give the denser vegetables a head start. Then add your kabocha, cabbage, and small turnips, if using, and continue to simmer until all the vegetables have begun to soften. When those are close, add your zucchini and the chickpeas, and simmer for about 10 minutes more until everything is tender. Taste the broth as you cook, adding more salt and spices if needed — the spice amounts will create a very subtle broth, so feel free to add more if you'd like. After you add the last ingredients, prepare the couscous while the stew finishes.

For the couscous :
1 cup dried couscous (my favorite is the whole wheat couscous from Trader Joe's)
1 cup boiling water
a good dash of salt

Combine equal parts couscous and boiling water, add salt, give it a stir, and cover for 5-10 minutes until rehydrated.

When everything is ready, ladle the stew over a bed of couscous and garnish with cilantro. You can either serve individual portions (our Coupe plates are perfect for this dish), or plate it all together on a large concave platter. We love to add a pickled garnish as well, whether that's olives or cornichons or any other sort of pickle we have on hand.