Vegetarian Cooking

Vegetarian Cooking — (2) North African Squash Couscous

(From selected vegetarian recipes we have made and offered to our temple. Since monastics who have taken certain precepts may not eat garlic and onions, we have made the dishes without those ingredients, but have left them in the recipes below if they belong to the original. We find fennel can very often substitute for the texture and flavor of onions, and has a pleasing gentle flavor. ) 

Squash and Tomatoes with Pearl Couscous & Broccoli Timbales:
[Originally appeared in The Guardian food column 2018, adapted from chef Anna Jones]

12 oz or about 3 cups butternut or other winter squash
6 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl black sesame seeds or nigella seeds
1 Tsp cumin seeds
15 oz can of roasted chopped tomatoes (in season, substitute fresh tomatoes)
1 ½ cup Pearl Couscous
2 Tsp Harissa Paste, or more to taste (we used Trader Joe’s) The original recipe calls for 1-2 Tbl but that seemed too spicy
A handful of black olives, stoned and chopped roughly (Provençal if possible)
4 oz feta (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400.
–Chop the squash into 1-inch pieces. Coat in salt, pepper and 2 Tbl olive oil and put on a tray.
–Roast 25 minutes or so until it is golden brown.
–Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a large pan, add the sesame seeds and cumin seeds and stir for a minute or two to coat and start to brown. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook until you have a rough, fairly thick sauce.
–In a large well-salted pot of boiling water, put in the couscous and cook for about 9 minutes until tender but still slightly chewy. Drain immediately and set aside.
–Stir the harissa paste and the olives into the sauce and cook until you have a rich thick sauce. Check to see if it needs a pinch more salt but be careful not to over-salt.
–Fold in the drained couscous and the squash pieces.
–Crumble feta over the dish and garnish with parsley or coriander if you like.

Serves 4-6

–Pearl Couscous is sometimes called Israeli couscous. Fregola is Sardinian couscous. They are both slightly larger than ordinary couscous, presenting small chewy balls. You can get them in many markets and mid-east shops, but definitely in Whole Foods.
–Harissa comes in a variety of styles from runny to very thick, sometimes called a sauce and sometimes a paste. For this recipe we used a small jar from Trader Joe’s. Always taste it first as it is of different spice levels.
–Can be made ahead and reheated.

Broccoli Timbales:
[These individual custards bring protein to your meal and are adapted from a Sunset magazine recipe going back to the 1980s]
1 ½ cups small broccoli florets
½ cup finely chopped onion (or fennel)
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl flour
¾ cup miso soup (from a package is fine)
¾ cup whole milk or half and half
4 eggs, beaten
¼ Tsp cayenne
¾ Tsp dry mustard
1 Tsp soy sauce
¼ Tsp pepper
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese or try half parmesan with half mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375
–Cook broccoli in small amount of water until just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Chop roughly to make 1 ½ cups.
–In a frying pan over medium heat, saute the onion or fennel in butter until limp, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and blend well, brown slightly, then add the strained miso and the milk or cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and the mixture has thickened—could be as much as 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
–Slowly stir about half the sauce into the eggs, then turn all this mixture back into the sauce in the pan. Stir in the mustard, soy sauce, cayenne followed by the cheese.
–Grease 4-6 custard cups (½ to ¾ cup capacity). Arrange the broccoli in the bottoms of the cups. Pour timbale mixture into the containers.
–Set into a large roasting pan and pour in about 1 inch of hot water or up to the level of the mixture in the cups. Cover with foil.
–Back for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
–Lift from the hot water (use hot pads not to burn yourself) and cool 10 minutes on a rack before serving.

Note: These are nice at room temperature as well as hot, and if you like, you can unmold them from their cups. Just butter the bottom well and cut some circles of waxed paper to fit (you pull them off when you unmold the cups by running a knife around the perimeter and reverse onto a serving dish.) Timbales are basically European in origin, but this one has an Asian touch like Japanese chawanmushi.

(Disclaimer: No claim is being made as to the originality of the recipes that appear here: however, they have been adapted, tested, revised and enjoyed over the years. When known, the original source is given.)

(Vegetarian Cooking Recipes Archive)