I developed this meal while living in a cottage during my senior year at Marlboro. It was definitely the most well received of the dishes I cooked most often. Because I’m not a chef or professional food writer, and have always improvised with some of the ingredients, it's a little imprecise—but it’s a flexible recipe.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 1/4 cups or so various chopped vegetables, proportions and kind according to your preference. While this recipe tastes good with a variety of vegetables, I would recommend 1/4 cup carrot pieces, 1/2 cup mushroom pieces, and 1/2 cup bell pepper pieces or broccoli cut small.
- 1 cup torn spinach or other greens (kale, etc.)
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas. This is also good with a kind of beans that Goya sells as “small white beans,” but various reviews have informed me that chickpeas are a general favorite.
- 2 cups large couscous (sold as either “Israeli” or “Middle Eastern” couscous)
- 2 1/4 cups (or so) stock; I make it with vegetable Better Than Bouillon. It should be pretty strong.
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp basil
- Pinch of cayenne
- Dash of soy sauce
Mix the garlic and onion and saute them in a pot, not a pan, in which you have drizzled quite a bit of olive oil. This pot is going to have all your ingredients in it, so it needs to be big enough for everything. Then add the vegetables and chickpeas—in order, according to how long they take to soften slightly (so things like carrots first, broccoli a little later, chickpeas pretty late, spinach last). I’m sure using bits of meat would be good in this recipe too, and that’d work on the same kind of principle. Once the vegetables are sauteed, add the couscous dry and continue stirring. This will toast it and improve the flavor. It doesn’t get very different visually, but after maybe five minutes it has a more “toasty” smell.
Meanwhile, mix the liquid ingredients (stock plus spices) together, and boil them. Add that liquid to the couscous. Turn heat to low. Cover and cook, checking intermittently, until you’re comfortable with the texture of the couscous (al dente, ideally) and the amount of liquid left. I sometimes leave it pretty wet, but it should never be quite like soup/stew. The cooking time is pretty variable depending on the vegetable mixture, so I just keep checking; it can range from nine or so minutes to maybe 15.
I learned how to cook couscous from my dad, who uses a ratio of 1:1.5 grain:liquid for his recipe, which is a simpler version of this one (just onion, couscous and stock). I’ve found that my more complex method needs less liquid because the chickpeas and vegetables make it wetter. When you use too much liquid, the couscous can end up sticking to the pot, because you then need to cook the whole thing extra long to make it less wet. Depending on the water content of the particular vegetables you’re using, the amount of liquid necessary will vary.
Top with grated cheese (Parmesan or cheddar), nutritional yeast, or cherry tomato halves.
This serves four people with pretty average adult human appetites. I’ve given it to five, but that can be dangerous.