It was 9:00 on Sunday morning, and I needed to have a potluck dish ready by 10:30. To complicate matters, I had little desire to cook or even to attend the potluck–I was thoroughly immersed in a mystery novel and could have happily stayed curled up in the recliner with it all day. Nevertheless, I am a mother and a realist, and I knew I’d eventually have to get up and pretend to be a productive member of society. So at a very late hour, I started looking for something to cook.
Potlucks are often not very lucky for vegans and vegetarians. In order to make sure there’s something my family can actually eat, I always try to bring a main dish rather than a side dish or dessert, and a main dish that contains several of the major food groups is even better. I decided that I needed a “one-pot meal” sort of dish that contained beans, vegetables, and grain, though with time running out, there just wasn’t enough time to cook a grain. So I opted instead for couscous, a tiny pasta that works like a grain in many dishes but cooks many times faster than even the smallest of grains .
I had in mind to make some kind of curried couscous salad, and just for fun I decided to check and see if the always-inventive cooks at the (now-defunct) Naughty Curry blog had done anything with couscous. And of course they had! Their Pineapple-Paradise Couscous Curry looked to-drool-for, and I promise you, I would have made it just as it was written except for one big problem: I didn’t have any pineapple. But I did have a can of mandarin oranges, so I made a few changes in the recipe but left the spicing pretty much as the Naughty cooks had made it. And it was wonderful–lightly sweet, richly spiced, and delicious hot or cold. Thanks, Trobee and Courtney, for the inspiration.
Orange Couscous Curry
(click for printer-friendly version)
1 tsp. canola oil (necessary to temper the spices)
1 1/4 tsp. black mustard seeds
4 dried chilies, deseeded and cut into irregular strips (leave a few seeds in for added spiciness)
2-inch cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. minced onions
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 ½ cups (12 oz.) orange juice
1 cup baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 medium-large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed somewhat
1 15-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained (use the kind that’s packed in juice)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp. salt (optional)
1 1/2 cup uncooked couscous
1 1/4 cup hot water
seeds of two green cardamom pods
1 ½ tbsp. coriander seeds
2 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
5 whole cloves
½ tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp turmeric
Grind the masala ingredients to a powder. (I use a coffee grinder for this, but a good blender will work, too.)
In large, non-stick wok or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it sizzles when you drop in a mustard seed. Add the black mustard seeds, chilies, and cinnamon stick. Cover the skillet and wait until you hear the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add onions, garlic, ginger paste, and masala. Sauté until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes, but be careful not to burn it.
Add the orange juice and bring to a boil. Add the zucchini and carrots, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. Add the green peas and chickpeas, and cook until heated through, about 3 or 4 minutes.
Add the salt, couscous, mandarin oranges, and hot water. Stir well, cover, and remove from heat. Allow it to sit for at least five minutes before stirring. Serve hot or at room temperature or chill for a fantastic salad.