Monday, July 29, 2013

4 Herb Couscous With Ras El Hanout

4 Herb Couscous With Ras El Hanout

Don't let this bowl of couscous fool you. Yes it has onions and onions and onions and red bell pepper and even a nice dressing of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. But while it may look suspiciously like any given couscous dish you have had in the past, I promise you it does not taste like it. 

This fragrant dish is amped up with four herbs - tarragon, mint, cilantro and parsley - but I am saving one ingredient for last. The ingredient most responsible for making this dish special: ras el hanout. If you are not familiar with ras el hanout, pull up a chair. 

Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that is savory, sweet and spicy. Loosely translated it means head of the shop or a blend of the best spices a market has to offer. Tales of ras el hanout recipes consisting of 100 spices abound and I am unsure if these are fact or folklore but what I can be sure of is the fact that there are countless recipes out there claiming to be "the best". Domestically, Williams-Sonoma carries a ready-made blend that I am sure is delicious, albeit westernized. And I have nothing against W-S, as a matter of fact I love W-S. I considered trekking to Santa Monica to pick up a jar of ras el hanout before a waft of laziness overcame me and a lifetime dose of the reality pill that is of my spice cupboard appeared.


I think I have nearly 100 things crammed in there - mostly dried herbs and spices. And just yesterday I found another shard of glass from the bottle of cinnamon that catapulted out of there 6 months ago. Reaching in this cupboard is like scooping up a lemon at the market and having 30 roll off the display onto the floor and feeling like the kids in the cafeteria who dropped the tray of food. {applause}. Anyway, I decided it was best that I make my own ras el hanout rather than adding another jar to this pack rat paradise.

After spending entrirely too much with Google pouring through countless online recipes, I landed on the one below which I thought promised the most depth. So...having never tasted ras el hanout before, I can say with a complete straight face that this recipe is the best you will find outside Marrakesh. OK, maybe not but it is delicious. And you'll have a little left over which would be fantastic as a spice rub for grilled fish or tofu.  

As an herb, spice and anything-Moroccan junkie, it's no wonder I enjoyed this couscous dish. And I think you will too.

4 Herb Couscous With Ras El Hanout

5 T olive oil, divided
1 white onion, finley chopped
1 T ras el hanout {purchased or follow the recipe below *}
1 8.78 oz package couscous
vegetable broth
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 green onion, sliced thin
1/4 c diced red bell pepper
1 T chopped tarragon
1 T chopped mint
1 T chopped cilantro
1 T chopped parsley
2 T lemon juice
1 T apple cider vinegar
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper

In a saucepan, saute onion, tras el hanout and 1 T love oil over medium-low heat for 6 - 8 minutes, until onion is translucent. Transfer to a large bowl.

Prepare the couscous per the package instructions. Cool and transfer to the large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and combine. Season with salt and pepper and add more ras el hanout, to taste {optional}.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to let the flavors marry. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6 - 8.

{*) Ras el hanout recipe
2 t nutmeg
2 t coriander
2 t cumin
2 t ginger 
2 t turmeric
2 t salt 
2 t cinnamon
1 t + 1/2 t sugar
1 t + 1/2 t paprika
1 t + 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t ground cardamom 
1 t ground allspice
1/2 t ground cloves

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.
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Source: couscous adapted from The LA Times; ras el hanout from Nasseh, Food.com

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