Chickpea, Pumpkin, and Raisin Couscous

[Photograph: Robin Bellinger]

Shopping List

14 ounces boxed chopped tomatoes: $2.00
1 cup dried chickpeas: $0.75
2 cups squash (pro-rated): $1.50
1 medium zucchini: $0.60
2 cups whole wheat couscous: $2.00

Pantry items: Ginger, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, olive oil, cinnamon stick, onion, raisins, vegetable or chicken stock, salt, cilantro, parsley, harissa or other hot sauce.

Total cost (for 4 portions): $6.85

As I dished up this couscous, my heart sank: it looked like many other vegetable stews that had disappointed me in the past with their tasteless chunks of watery squash and air of grimly determined healthiness. I had recently been thinking of how Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian never lets me down, and I figured I was paying some kind of karmic price for being foolishly faithful.

Well, the faith lives! I don't know if it was the spice blend or the cooking method, but this dish was fragrant, deliciously various, and satisfying in every way. Although I had been too lazy to chop cilantro and parsley and did not have any harissa, in my opinion it shone even without garnishes. I didn't have it in me to make a salad, either, but some simply dressed romaine or a grated carrot salad would be nice here.

The recipe increases well. Make a double batch of the stew, put half in the freezer, and eat it later with freshly-cooked couscous. Although I cook my own chickpeas (cheaper!), canned should be fine here. Powdered stock is probably fine, too, but I used a "stock" I had made simply by simmering a couple of leftover chicken bones with a handful of parsley stems, a halved onion, and a smashed clove of garlic.

Chickpeas, Pumpkin, and Raisins with Couscous

About the author: Robin Bellinger is a freelance editor and shameless cookie addict. She lives in San Francisco and blogs about what she feeds her husband and her daughter at home*economics.

Chickpea, Pumpkin, and Raisin Couscous

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About This Recipe

Yield:4
Rated:

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine half rings
  • 3 medium tomatoes (12 ounces), peeled and finely chopped (I used canned)
  • 2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas
  • 2 heaped cups peeled, seeded pumpkin or butternut squash cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • Salt
  • 1 cup zucchini cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cups whole wheat couscous
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • Harissa (or sambal or any chile-garlic sauce)

Procedures

  1. 1

    Combine the spices in a small cup and set aside.

  2. 2

    Put the oil in a largish saucepan and set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cinnamon stick. Stir for a few seconds and then add the onion. Stir and fry for about 3 minutes, or until the onion is medium brown (I fried the onion for almost 10 minutes). Now stir in the cup of mixed spices; almost right away, add the tomatoes. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened.

  3. 3

    Add the chickpeas, pumpkin or squash, raisins, stock, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is just tender when pierced with the point of a knife. Add the zucchini and simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes, stirring gently now and then.

  4. 4

    While the vegetables simmer, make the couscous. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. When it is about to boil, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium flame and toast the couscous in it for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the boiling water into the pot of couscous, add a teaspoon of salt, and stir once. Immediately cover the pot, turn the heat to low, and cook very gently for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit somewhere warm, still covered, for 15 minutes.

  5. 5

    To serve, stir the cilantro and parsley into the finished vegetables. Fluff the couscous thoroughly with a fork. Put a mound of couscous on each plate. Make a well in the center and use a slotted spoon to fill it with solids from the stew. Dampen the couscous generously with the liquids. Pass harissa or other hot sauce on the side.

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