Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Rockin’ Moroccan Couscous

Couscous has become all the rage in my kitchen.  Why?  For starters, once those tiny, spherical pellets hit boiling water, it’s only a 5 minute countdown ‘til finish.  Made from the same semolina flour used to make spaghetti, couscous is an excellent source of fiber and vitamins.  Nutrition and cook time aside, I love couscous because it is malleable to my mealtime musings.  A dish laden with ethnic spices and cooked vegetables, the quintessential Moroccan-style couscous, is as easy as the Greek Salad couscous with fresh tomatoes, Kalamata olives, cucumber, and feta cheese.  I even eat them “barebones”, with a little help from my friends: olive oil, salt, and pepper.   It’s simply a matter of your mood and what you have in your pantry.   
Feeling that I had been under utilizing my spice arsenal recently, I opted for Moroccan Couscous.  While you may view the amount of spices as daunting, it is multi-purpose.  While cooking, I discovered a novel method of air freshening: toasting spices.  Cook and clean at the same time.  That is consummate college cooking.  After only a few seconds, the stale kitchen air was shrouded with a veil of aromatic spices. 
Though I went meatless on this version of Moroccan Couscous, you will not leave the table hungry.  Garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, are the muscle-building protein for this meal.  Beans get a bad rap for being a “poor man’s meat”.  But at $1 a can, the “poor college student” sees opportunity.  Chick peas have been cultivated for over 7,500 years.  Their track record among humans is solid.  Plus, they have a great nutty taste, are low-fat and high protein.  Why give up on a good thing?  

Your first bite brings on this epiphany that what you are eating is the perfect blend of fragrant herbs and spices, couscous, chickpeas, vegetables, raisins, and orange juice all at once.  Then you realize that Moroccan Couscous is a lot easier to say, especially when your mouth is full.  Enjoy the noms!

Moroccan Couscous
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 T olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
½ cup raisins
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 T grated lemon zest
1 (14.5 oz) can low sodium garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups couscous
3 T fresh mint, chopped
1.       Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan (I used my 13 inch All-Clad) over medium heat. 
2.       Stir in spices; gently toast until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
3.       Stir in oil, onion, and garlic until softened.   
 4.       Stir in bell pepper and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes. 
 5.       Stir in the raisins, salt, black pepper, lemon zest, and garbanzos.
6.       Pour in chicken broth and orange juice; turn heat to high and bring to a boil. 
 7.       When mixture is boiling, stir in the couscous and remove from heat; cover, and let stand 5 minutes. 

8.       Fluff with a fork, and fold in chopped mint. 

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