Pearl Couscous with Fall Vegetables and Caramelized Onions


Photograph by: Rachel Weill

Serves 8

I saw this recipe in the Rachael Ray Magazine in a feature about winter comfort foods. I did a GKC adaptation and eliminated some of the ingredients that were not kosher and the results are terrific. The combination of cinnamon, vegetables, saffron, cumin, and stock give this dish a hearty feel and you do not miss the ingredients that were omitted. Pearl couscous is the same thing as Israeli couscous. It’s a small circle pasta and is great warm or at room temperature. I eat the leftovers all week.

2 medium onions, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil or margarine
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
Couscous and vegetables
3 to 4 medium carrots
3 medium zucchini
1 jalapeno pepper
4 small turnips
1-1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil or margarine
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon saffron threads
3/4 teaspoon cumin
2 cinnamon sticks
7 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups pearl (also sold as Israeli) couscous
About 1 teaspoon harissa* (available in many kosher markets, made by Pereg and other Persian brands. It is spicy and can be omitted.)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Prepare the caramelized onions: Put onions in a large frying pan with 1/2 cup water, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until softened, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onions are golden. Increase heat to medium-high, add olive oil, and cook, stirring, until deep golden. Meanwhile, soak raisins in hot water 15 minutes and then drain them.

Add cinnamon, salt, pepper, and honey to the onions and then stir in raisins and cook, stirring, until nutty brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare the couscous and vegetables: Peel and cut the zucchini (I leave the peel on the zucchini) and carrots into 1 1/2-in. pieces. Halve jalapeno (remove the membranes and seeds). Peel and quarter turnips. Peel and seed squash and cut into 1-in. chunks.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, saffron, cumin, and cinnamon sticks and fry, stirring, 1 minute. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add carrots, turnips, and jalapeño and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add squash and zucchini and cook, covered, until all vegetables are soft but not falling apart, about 20 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups hot stock from vegetable pot to a 4-qt. saucepan. Add 1 cup water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, stir in couscous, and cook, covered, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups stock from vegetable pot to a pitcher and stir in harissa to taste.

Spread couscous on a platter, making a well in the center. Using a slotted spoon, arrange vegetables, including cinnamon sticks, in the well; discard jalapeno. Scatter onions on top and sprinkle with cilantro. Moisten the couscous with some stock and strain the rest into a second pitcher. Serve couscous and vegetables with the two stocks (plain and spicy) on the side.

Note: You can make this with one sauce and pour it over the top. Soaked in the juices it is delicious fresh and leftover.

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