North Africa has always evoked to me thoughts of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, stunning architecture, bustling markets where you haggle for some fascinating trinket. Now, however, if its possible, its mystique has grown even greater for me watching ordinary people rising to a challenge and being unbelievably brave in their demands for democracy.
Also, the food, obviously. Has anyone read A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain’s underappreciated second book in which he travels the world in search of the perfect meal? He goes to North Africa in search of spit roasted lamb and other delicacies and is served couscous and tagine over and over and over.
I am more than happy to eat couscous over and over and over.
Plus, hello weeknight dinner: it takes like two minutes to make.
For this extremely tasty bowl, I just dumped boiling water on some Trader Joe’s whole wheat couscous and some sun dried tomatoes; let them sit, covered, for five minutes or so; and tossed with roasted veggies.
To make this next guy I followed the same basic method and threw in some slow-roasted tomatoes (ooh tangent! Steve said “I have some not very good tomatoes, can I come over and you can figure out what to do with them?” which is obviously a huge compliment to me. I consulted How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, natch, and he said toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and roast 45 minutes. Et voila, they tasted great). I topped it with that fabulous cheese we got at Lebanese Butcher.
Rounding out that meal, I attempted to recreate a stellar Eating Well recipe I’d made last winter for roasted squash and pears with chili and brown sugar but rather than doing squash and pear slices have a big squash hunk stuffed with pear… since my pears were slightly mushy… and it was pretty but not actually very good.
Stick with the original. The original is VERY good.
Another thing I associate with North Africa: fava beans!
On sale at my favorite hole-in-the-wall health food store. Like all hole-in-the-wall health food stores, it is outrageously overprice, so I only buy things when they’re on the half off shelf.
You definitely get a good bang for your buck with fava beans- look at the difference in size between the raw, unpeeled bean and the peeled and cooked bean:
For a recipe I turned, duh, to Mark. How did I live before How to Cook Everything Vegetarian?!
I ended up pureeing my beans… since, uh… they kind of disintegrated into mush. It probably was because of my unorthodox soaking technique… Rather than using cold water, I soaked them in hot water leftover from making some pasta, because I abhor dumping water down the sink.
Anyway, seasoned with za’atar (!) it made a very tasty puree.
It is super fun having a big bowl of dip for lunch! It makes for a very leisurely pace, ripping off slices of bread and dipping them in the rich, slightly smoky dip.
I also had yogurt with apple and cinnamon…
I also had some leftover shredded kale and brussels sprouts salad which I’d made for a dinner a few nights prior.
WOW it was good. I used like a fifth of the oil called for in the initial recipe. It was still DELISH.
However, though the fava bean puree was good, what I did with the leftovers was even better.
Like, so so so amazing.
Step 1: threw some onion (1/4 c?) and a carrot, chopped up, onto a cooking spray’d baking sheet, into my toaster oven til golden
Step 2: toasted some walnuts (3 T), chopped small, and cumin seeds (1/2 t) in a hot pan
Step 3: Add to hot pan with walnuts and cumin seeds: the roasted onions and carrots, chopped up; last of the fava bean puree (had about 3/4 cup left?); the rest of a can of black eyed peas I’d opened earlier (1 1/4 cups?); and perhaps half a cup of water. Then it was WAY too thin so I added the last of some dried mung bean dal I had (they’re yellow and teeny tiny and cook fast). Ee’rbody cooked together (I ended up adding hot water periodically to keep it from sticking to the bottom) for about half an hour. And just for kicks I threw in some chopped up apple… a couple tablespoons?
It. Was. So. Good!
Note to self: play with texture more. Three beans are better than one!