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The Essential Mediterranean: How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients Into the World's Favorite Cuisinesby Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Haouari's Lamb Couscous with Dried Fruits and Nuts Couscous A L'Agneau Et Aux Fruits Secs Makes 8 servings
Most North African cooks buy their couscous ready-made, just like buying commercial pasta, but my Tunisian friend and occasional traveling buddy Chef Abderrazak Haouari sometimes makes it from start — just to keep in practice, he says. In the old days, he says, they always made the couscous in August, well after the harvest, when there was lots of sun for drying it rapidly. Then it was stored and used throughout the year.
For ease of preparation, make the basic lamb stew a day ahead and refrigerate it when done; the fat will rise to the top and can be easily removed before continuing with the cooking, making a tighter stew.
Use medium-grain couscous, which is what is generally available in health-food stores, gourmet shops, and supermarkets. Do not use the large-grain couscous variously called Middle Eastern or Israeli couscous or "maghrabiye (mahgrah-BEE-yah).
To toast the nuts, spread them on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and set in a preheated 350° F. oven for about 10 minutes, or until they turn golden.
3 pounds lamb shoulder meat, cut into stewing-sized pieces
Using your hands, combine the lamb in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the saffron. Toss to mix. Set aside, covered, to marinate for at least an hour.
When you are ready to prepare the lamb stew, combine the onions and garlic with the olive oil in the bottom part of a couscoussié re or a heavy stew pot. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not brown. Add the marinated meat and raise the heat slightly. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat has completely changed color, about 15 minutes. Add water to cover — at least 6 cups — and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and let simmer for at least 1 hour. The stew may be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated until you are ready to continue cooking. if you wish, remove the fat from the top of the stew before continuing.
When you are ready to continue cooking, return the meat stew to the bottom of the couscoussié re. Add another 1 1/2 cups of water and heat the stew to simmering. Mix in the carrots, turnips, and harissa. Cover the pan and let simmer gently while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Combine the figs and apricots in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soften.
Simmer the milk very slowly in a small pan until it has reduced by half.
Combine the chopped toasted almonds with the toasted pistachios andpine nuts. Set the raisins or currants in a separate small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside to soften for about 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and add to the nut mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of melted butter to the nut mixture, mix well, and set aside to keep warm.
Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of warm water.
Spread the couscous out in a thin layer, about 1/4 inch thick, in a sheet pan. Sprinkle the couscous with a little of the salty water, raking your fingers through the grains in order to distribute the water evenly throughout. The grains of couscous will quickly absorb the water, but continue sprinkling, using all the salty water, and raking and rubbing gently so that no lumps form in the couscous. Then let the couscous rest for about 30 minutes while the grains swell slightly.
Transfer the prepared couscous to the top of the couscoussié re (or the colander). Set the top over the stew in the bottom, sealing the join well with a length of aluminum foil. (Traditionally, the join is sealed with a thick flour-and-water paste, but this is messy and time-consuming.) Do not cover the top of the couscoussié re, otherwise steam will condense inside the lid and drip back inside, making the couscous lumpy. When you see steam begin to rise through the grains, start to time the cooking.
Meanwhile, prepare another cup of warm salty water, using 1 teaspoon salt.
After 15 minutes of steaming, remove the top of the couscoussié re and tip the partially cooked couscous back onto the sheet pan. As soon as it is cool enough to handle, start to toss, rake, and stir the couscous with your fingers to make it more fluffy and airy, breaking up any lumps that mayhave formed. Sprinkle the salty water over the couscous as you do this, using the entire cup.
Return the couscous to the top of the couscoussié re and set once more over the boiling liquid, again sealing the join between top and bottom well. Let it steam for 10 minutes, then turn again into the tray and repeat the previous step, again sprinkling the couscous with 1 cup warm salty water and tossing and raking it.
Return the couscous to the top of the couscoussié re for the third and final steaming, which should last for 7 to 10 minutes. Turn the couscous out onto the sheet pan and add half the buttery nut mixture, tossing the grains with a fork to distribute the nuts throughout. Continue to toss the couscous, using a fork and your hands, while you mix in the reduced milk and then about a cup of the rich juices from the lamb stew. Use a very light touch as you mix in these additions, tossing the couscous gently. The point is to enrobe it with these savory ingredients and not to mash it to a paste.
When the couscous is ready, mound it on a platter. Mix the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter with the remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and dribble it all over the couscous. Arrange the meat and vegetables around the couscous and garnish the top with the remaining nut mixture. Serve immediately. Baked Swordfish Rolls with an Orange Sauce Involtini Di Pesce Spada Makes 6 servings
Thin slices of swordfish can be rolled around a stuffing similar to the one used for squid. Have your fishmonger slice the swordfish very thinly — 1/4 inch or less. Otherwise, the rolls will be too bulky.
Ingredients 12 thin slices fresh swordfish
Pat dry the swordfish slices with paper towels and set aside. Use a little of the olive oil to greas
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