I’ve always loved Moroccan food, but lately I’ve had a renewed obsession with it. Last week my family and I discovered an awesome little Moroccan restaurant in Westwood called Koutoubia. We had a terrific meal there– merguez sausage, harira, cigars, lemon chicken, lamb and couscous. It reignited my interest in Moroccan and North African cuisine. I came home ready to experiment in the kitchen with sweet and spicy flavors… dried fruits, cinnamon, harissa.
I was inspired to develop a seasonal Moroccan-style vegetarian entree that could be served in lieu of turkey for Thanksgiving, or for any occasion really. A tagine seemed like the perfect way to go. The North African word tagine refers to a cone-like earthenware pot, as well as the slowly simmered Berber-inspired stews that are cooked inside it. I love the tagine as a cooking vessel, but not too many people have one in their kitchen. It made more sense to cook this Moroccan-spiced tagine in a heavy pot, rather than a tagine, so that more folks can enjoy it. Whether this cooking method qualifies the dish as a tagine or a stew is anybody’s guess. I serve it over couscous, so I call it Moroccan-Style Vegetable Couscous.
This two-pot meal is easy to make, super healthy and so satisfying. It’s got layers and layers of flavor, and could be served as either a vegan entree or an exotic side dish. I used lots of vegetables and dried fruits, which make this a great choice for harvest-time holidays (like Sukkot!). Harissa is a spicy North African chili paste originating in Tunisia. It can be found at most Middle Eastern and kosher markets. The spice adds a wonderful depth to this sweet and savory dish. Feel free to substitute sambal oelek from the Asian food section if you can’t track down harissa, they have similar flavor profiles. If you’re gluten free, quinoa makes a perfect sub for the couscous. Enjoy!
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- 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 2 tsp chopped garlic
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp harissa (or substitute sambal oelek)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 2 lb. sweet potatoes (orange yams) peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
- 1 lb. zucchini (about 4 medium zucchini) cut into 1/2 inch rounds
- 12 oz. carrots (about 4 medium carrots) peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 3 cups shredded cabbage
- 1/3 cup dried apricots
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (or substitute canned chickpeas, drained)
- 10 oz. couscous (1 1/2 cups dry - for gluten free substitute quinoa)
You will also need
- 7-8 quart heavy pot with lid, medium saucepan
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium. Saute the onion for several minutes till softened. Add the garlic and saute for another minute till fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato paste, harissa, cinnamon, ginger and 1/2 cup of the low sodium vegetable broth till smooth. Bring to a boil.
- Add sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, shredded cabbage, dried apricots, golden raisins and cilantro to the pot. Stir till combined.
- Add remaining 2 cups of vegetable broth to the pot. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I use about 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper).
- Reduce heat and cover the pot. Simmer the mixture for 50-60 minutes, stirring gently 2 times during cooking, till all the vegetables are fully tender. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Remove from heat.
- Add chickpeas to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes more till they're heated through.
- Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package directions.
- Pour cooked couscous onto a large platter. Top with the cooked vegetable stew. Serve.