I am not very good at this blogging thing. I cook all the time. I eat all the time. I bake some of the time. But, quite honestly, I’d rather cook and eat, then cook, eat, think, sit down and write, photograph, etc. So, this blog is going to be a bit more minimal than it was before. Fewer photos, for sure. More chat and more recipes.
Today, I’d like to discuss this excellent Bon Appetit article I found. It is called “The Food Lover’s Cleanse.” As a predominantly healthy eater, I’m not one to be swayed by any sort of cleanse, though on occasion, I do think reducing my dairy intake for short periods of time could be good for me. However, this Food Lover’s Cleanse just has really intriguing and inspiring recipes. For example, dinner on day 1 is a winter vegetable couscous from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used to follow his recipes in The Guardian, but I have not seen a new post in quite some time. On any given day of the cleanse, I can more or less see myself eating the recommended meals. I have been known to crash and burn at least once a month and eat nothing but processed foods. I feel bad about that to the extent that processed foods are disgusting, terrible for the environment and the farms I love, and all other things good for the world. But sometimes, I really do need salty, fried foods. I’m pretty sure that’s just how I am built.
This couscous recipe caught my eye based on the abundance of ingredients I had on hand that I really did not ever think to put together. Root vegetables: check. Couscous: check. Dried apricots: check (oddly enough). Etc. We did have to purchase star anise, which I acquired at the low cost of $1.50 for an ounce (about 1/3-1/2 cup) from World Spice behind Pike Place Market. Chickpeas (canned for this event). And a few more apricots.
Here’s the thing: this recipe is incredible (even considering the things I eliminated and substituted). With an overwhelming amount of root vegetables in my kitchen, I am constantly looking for new ways to eat them. This was just lovely. The vegetables kept some of their crunch with a warming and somewhat spicy taste. I would definitely use more heat next time, and I may be willing to try with preserved lemons. I only used the juice of one lemon this time because I didn’t have the time to preserve lemons or the money to buy a jar. In any case, I’d be willing to bet anything that is part of this cleanse is tasty. And, for certain, I’d recommend this couscous.
Recipe adapted from Plenty as published on Bon Appetit
Serves 4, or even more
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
8 shallots, peeled (I used two leeks and a couple of small red onions)
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp hot paprika
1/4 tsp chile flakes
2 1/2 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (from a 10-oz squash) (I used an acorn squash that we already had in the house, but I do think the pumpkin or butternut would provide a smoother, sweeter flavor)
1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
1 1/2 cups chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
1 cup couscous
Large pinch of saffron
1 cup boiling vegetable stock
3 tbsp butter, broken into pieces
2 tbsp harissa (I used sriracha because I read it could be substituted for harissa, and I didn’t want to spend the $$ on harissa. not a bad substitute, but be careful when putting it in. The harissa, I believe, would have a slightly smokier flavor that the sriracha does not have.)
1 oz preserved lemon, finely chopped (Here, I just used the juice from the lemon. You can preserve lemons fairly easily, but it needs to be done like 7 days in advance. Just FYI.)
2 cups cilantro leaves
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large ovenproof dish. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of the oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt and all other spices and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite. Now add the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes or until hot.
About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for about 10 minutes. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again and leave somewhere warm.
To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the center of the couscous. Finish with plenty of cilantro leaves.