Couscous is a wonderful pantry staple. It's the fastest pasta (or any starchy grain) I know how to cook, and its fluffy texture and mild flavor pair well with just about anything you throw at it. In Joanne Chang's new cookbook Flour, Too, she steams the pasta with a rainbow of summer vegetables and a couple of cups of slowly braised chickpeas. Not content with this everyday flavor profile, Chang flavors the dish with North African flair. First, turmeric, garlic, and cumin go in with the couscous. Then Chang finishes the dish with a dollop of spicy, creamy harissa-spiked yogurt. The final touch is a fried egg with a runny yolk perfect for popping and stirring throughout the serving bowl.
Why I picked this recipe: Couscous, harissa, and fried eggs are three of my favorite things. Add some virtuous veggies and this dish is a home-run in my book.
What worked: This is exactly the kind of meal I like to eat throughout the summer (and especially on a busy Wednesday night). If you make the chickpeas ahead of time (or use cans), the whole thing comes together in less than an hour and is a balanced meal all in one bowl.
What didn't: Be cautious when mixing the harissa yogurt. My harissa is super spicy, so I cut her suggested amount in half. I'd suggest adding harissa by the tablespoon and taste as you go.
Suggested tweaks: You could absolutely change the vegetables included here. Any leafy green would work in place of the spinach, and you could mix and match squash and peppers to your heart's content. For the best visual presentation, keep things colorful and choose a variety. And, for any vegans out there, the veggies and couscous taste just great on their own, sans eggs and yogurt. Also, a few slices of avocado wouldn't hurt.
Reprinted with permission from Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for the Cafe's Most Loved Sweets and Savories by Joanne Chang. Copyright 2013. Published by Chronicle Books. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
Braised Chickpeas and Vegetables with Couscous, Harissa Yogurt, and Soft Eggs from 'Flour, Too'
- 2/3 cup (120 grams) dried chickpeas, or one 15-ounce (430-gram) can chickpeas
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml) vegetable oil
- 8 ounces (225 grams) spinach, tough stems removed
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 medium zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 medium yellow squash, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup (180 grams) couscous
- 3/4 cup (180 grams) plain full-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) harissa paste
- 1/2 cup (30 grams) chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup (30 grams) chopped fresh mint
- 6 large eggs
- 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges
If using dried chickpeas, place them in a bowl or other container, add 5 to 6 cups (1.2 to 1.4 L) water, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan, bring the chickpeas and about 6 cups (1.4 L) fresh water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender. Remove from the heat, drain, and set aside. If using canned chickpeas, drain, rinse under cold running water, and set aside.
In the stockpot, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over high heat until hot. Add the spinach, reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.
In the same pot, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
Add the chickpeas, carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper, cumin, and turmeric and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add 1 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Stir in the couscous and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and leave on the stove for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff up the couscous with a fork. Replace the cover and let sit for another 5 minutes. Remove the cover and fluff up the couscous again. Taste the couscous. If too chewy, cover and let stand for another 5 minutes.
While the couscous is steaming, chop the reserved spinach and drain off any excess liquid. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, harissa, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well blended. Set aside.
When the couscous is done, add the spinach, cilantro, and mint and stir to combine. Divide the couscous equally among six shallow bowls and set aside in a warm spot.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary to prevent crowding, carefully crack each egg directly into the pan, keeping the yolk intact. Season each egg with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons water into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tops of the egg whites are opaque and set and the yolks are still runny. Using a spatula, top each serving of couscous with an egg. Repeat with the remaining eggs if cooking in batches.
Garnish each bowl with a generous spoonful of the yogurt and a lime wedge before serving, and pass the remaining yogurt at the table. The lime and the harissa yogurt are crucial condiments to the couscous, so make sure everyone uses both!