Winter Vegetable Couscous

Adapted from Plenty

I really try not to use off-the-beaten ingredients that will have you scurrying from one store to another. I just hate that. However, this recipe calls for whole star anise – obscure indeed – and had the flavors in this dish not been so wonderful, I would have just told you to skip it. But I just can’t do that. This is the kind of dish I’ll be making quite a bit of between now and when the tulips are back in our midst. The ingredient list may seem long at first glance, but trust me when I say this is a very easy dish to make.

  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 3 large bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 preserved lemon
  • 3/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • Generous pinch saffron
  • 1 cup boiling vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons harissa
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine carrots, parsnips, cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, ginger, turmeric, paprika and crushed red pepper flakes in a large, oven-safe dish. Stir to combine, then roast on the middle rack for 15 minutes.
  • Add the butternut squash, then stir and return the dish to the oven to roast for another 35 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. If you are using preserved lemons you’ve made yourself using the recipe you found here, you will need to boil them in water for 2 to 3 minutes to remove some of the salt. Remove the lemon wedge from the water, set it aside to cool, then set the water aside. You will be adding it to the dish in the next step. [If you are using prepared preserved lemons, just use boiling water in the next step].
  • When the squash is softened but still has some tooth to it, remove the vegetables from the oven. Add the apricots, chickpeas and the cooking water from the lemon. Return the dish to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes or until heated through.
  • Place the couscous in a large glass bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the saffron and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Pour the boiling vegetable stock over the couscous, give it a stir, then cover the dish and allow it to sit until the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in the butter, fluff with a fork, then cover again.
  • Finely chop the preserved lemon. Add the harissa and the preserved lemon to the vegetables. Stir to combine.
  • Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and bay leaves from the vegetables. To serve, place the couscous in bowls. Top with the vegetable mixture and finally with a generous portion of cilantro leaves.
  • Quick Tips
  • 1. The original recipe also called for 8 peeled shallots. They were to be added to the dish with the carrots and parsnips. After buying all those shallots – and making a special trip to do so since the last store I’d visited didn’t have any – can you believe I forgot to add those little buggers? Arrgh. I hate it when that happens. If you’ve got them, use them and then tell me what I missed out on.
  • 2. Because I am terribly lazy, I bought the pre-peeled and cut butternut squash to make this a little easier.
  • 3. My husband is one of those people that thinks cilantro tastes like soap. I love it. Just leave it off or add a little flat parsley for color if you have cilantro-haters dining at your table.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

7 responses to “Winter Vegetable Couscous”

  1. Leslie Phillips says:

    Hi Alicia. I hope to make this winter couscous recipe this weekend. i already have the butternut squash. do i peel it and cult it up uncooked? how does one peel a squash?

    thanks – Leslie

    • Alicia says:

      Hi Leslie! Yes, peel it first, then cut it up and roast it according to the directions. Butternut squash has a hard skin, so I like to use the vegetable peeler. You can use a sharp knife, too, but I find the vegetable peeler to be more efficient (and safer!). Enjoy!

  2. stefanie says:

    Hi Alicia…
    so thrilled that Nikki got me into your site… i am already a big fan… would love to make this winter couscous this week… what do you recommend for the preserved lemon…since i don’t have two weeks to let it preserve??
    thanks for sharing…

    • Alicia says:

      You can find preserved lemons in the olive bar (near the bakery) at Whole Foods. They use Meyer lemons for theirs, I believe, which are a little smaller and sweeter. You only need one! Enjoy!

  3. Nikki S. says:

    This recipe took a longer time than I normally like to spend cooking dinner, but my efforts were richly rewarded. I made this dish for my vegetarian parents, who are quite bored of most vegetarian dishes after all these years, but they loved it! My efforts were richly rewarded. And for what it’s worth, we didn’t use star anise (which we don’t like), and it was still delicious!

  4. BP says:

    Hi! If you were going to either add meat to this or as a side dish, what would you suggest? I am working on getting meat-free dishes onto our family’s menu but “some” (one) of us really wants meat with every meal.

    • Alicia says:

      Hi there! This dish has a lot of complex flavor, so I would probably keep it simple and go with a roast chicken. Good luck! I hope you love it.

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