Seven Vegetable Couscous

Last night, the world in general, and American women in particular, lost an icon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG, died at the age of 87. The tiny legal legend was a champion for equal rights for women and the queen of dissent on the Supreme Court. The news of her death hit me harder than I honestly thought it would… It was the combination of the loss of such an amazing women, the political implications of her death, and sadness at the fact that in her last years, she had to carry the weight of the country on her shoulders.

When I’m sad about something or want to honor someone, I turn to the kitchen. I like to try a new recipe that in some way honors or symbolizes what I’m missing. As the news broke of her death, I learned something new about her faith as well. Last night, the evening after she died, was the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Apparently, in Jewish tradition, those that die on the holiday are considered “tzadik” or a “righteous one.” The thought is that those who die at the end of the year are so important that they are needed until the very end. If that description doesn’t fit RBG, I don’t know what does. So with that in mind, I decided to cook a Rosh Hashanah dinner. This is my little way to honor her memory tonight.

I decided to make Seven Vegetable Couscous, a dish that is a Rosh Hashanah classic from Sephardic Jews, particular those with roots in Morocco. (This dish is eaten in Morocco without connection to Rosh Hashanah/Judaism as well.) The dish is well-suited for the new year celebration, as the number seven is auspicious in Judaism, and the numerous grains of couscous represent many blessings for the year to come.

There isn’t an exact recipe for this dish as best I can tell. Different cooks utilize different vegetables, though the ones I selected here seem to be fairly typical. I browsed several recipes to create this one. I used these most heavily – Tori Avey, New York Times, Taste of Maroc, and The Nosher. I’m really happy with how my version came out. My seven vegetables are: onion, cabbage, sweet potato, turnip, carrot, chickpeas, and zucchini. It’s a little bit spicy and very flavorful. The veggies aren’t mushy and the remaining liquid gets soaked up into the couscous. To keep with tradition, I should have used actual couscous not pearl couscous, but I love pearl couscous and we had it at home. A delicious dinner won’t bring RBG back, but it did make me feel a little better.

Rest in peace RBG and Shanah Tovah everyone else!

Seven Vegetable Couscous

(Inspired by a combination of several recipes, see the text above)
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cups white cabbage, shredded
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ~3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled & cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled & cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise & then into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 1/3 cup of golden raisins
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup pearl couscous
  1. In a dutch oven or large, high-edged pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is hot, cook the onions and cabbage, topped with 10 turns of fresh ground black pepper & 1/4 tsp salt, for ~5 minutes.
  3. Now add the tomato paste, harissa, spices, and just a splash of the stock. Cook just another 2 minutes, until the spices are fragrant.
  4. Add the remaining stock, carrots, sweet potato, and turnip and bring to a boil. Use enough stock to cover the vegetables, which may be slightly more or less depending on the pot/pan you use. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, start the couscous. Bring 2 cups of water (or additional vegetable stock) to a boil and then add the couscous. Allow to boil for 1-2 minutes, then cover and reduce heat to low for 3-4 minutes. Uncover and stir, then replace the lid and turn off the heat.
  6. Uncover and stir. Add in the zucchini and chickpeas. Continue to cook at a simmer with the lid on for 5 more minutes. Then uncover and cook another couple minutes as needed until all veggies are tender, but not mushy.
  7. Taste and adjust for salt. Top with golden raisins and chopped parsley. Serve vegetables over couscous.
Serves 6-8

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