Contrary to my fiance's belief, I cook way too much Italian food. I also prepare an obscene amount of Mexican. While I'd like to fancy myself a pro at cooking both delicious cuisines, sometimes I still find myself yearning for unfamiliar flavors. Trust me, I'm aware that both Italian and Mexican culinary traditions are extremely diverse. I know all too well that Italian food goes way beyond red sauce and pasta. I also realize that Mexican grub doesn't always include corn tortillas, beans, and salsa. But you see, I already venture out in my kitchen with both ethnicities. Take for instance, my Short Rib Ragu over Truffled Gorgonzola Pappardelle...or my Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Risotto. Hardly your standard Italian fare.
On occasion, I really enjoy experimenting with herbs and spices that catch my tastebuds off guard. Flavors of sweet and spicy that confuse my palate can be rather delightful when done with tender, love, and care. So just last week, I did exactly that. What cuisine did I give the Dash of Les whirl? Moroccan; but of course. With spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and the always heavenly, saffron...I'm kinda in love with Moroccan cooking.
The first Moroccan dish I learned how to make was an oh so righteous Moroccan Rubbed and Apricot Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. Taught by the hands of my big brother, it's a delectable dinner that I'm constantly craving. I've made the masterpiece a few times since and have also used some of those same ingredients in preparing simple grilled chicken, a pot of otherwise lackluster rice, and most recently, a roasted vegetable medley.
I want a tagine so bad. But until I make that purchase, I'll just have to get my Moroccan gastronomy on in other ways. My Moroccan roasted veggies have all those diverse spices that define the cuisine. Sweet, spicy, and aromatic, I could've eaten a heaping pound of the roasted cauliflower, zucchini, and carrots. And the icing on the cake was definitely the perfectly spiced Israeli couscous.
Throw some protein on the side or enjoy on a "Meatless Monday," and you'll be hooked on Moroccan food for good; I'm quite sure of it.
Roasted Moroccan Vegetables and Spiced Israeli "Pearl" Couscous
3 cups cauliflower, chopped in bite-size florets
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons Grape seed oil (or oil of your choice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 generous pinch saffron (about 10-12 strands)
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the Israeli "Pearl" Couscous
1 cup couscous
2 cups water (or vegetable broth for extra flavor)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
5 strands saffron
1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large oven-safe casserole dish, combine all of the vegetables, spices, and oil, leaving out only the cilantro. Place on center rack for 30-40 minutes or unil veggies are tender and just slightly crispy. Stir once halfway through cooking.
2) When the veggies have about 10 minutes left of roasting time, prepare the couscous. Cook according to directions on package. When the couscous is al dente, remove from heat and thoroughly drain. Return couscous back to the pot and mix in the raisins, butter, and spices.
3) Take veggies out of the oven and sprinkle with cilantro. Then, serve over couscous. Feel free to use some of these spices as a rub for chicken, pork, or beef too.
***Makes 4 small (side) portions.