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One Couscous Please, Garcon

November 02, 1995|LORI BARTH

While traveling in my student days, I'd seek out the best meal I could get on my shoestring budget. In Paris, I found that a hearty, healthful and affordable way to dine was at one of the city's many Moroccan restaurants. Almost every arrondissement had one, and for a few francs, a hot bowl of couscous with vegetable stew went a long way.

Every time I return to France, I have couscous at least once to make the trip feel complete.

I have learned to re-create the couscous and vegetable stew at home. Like most North African food, it's quite a healthful dish. It's also fairly easy to prepare; any meats you chose to add can be grilled on the barbecue.

The only part of the menu that takes a little patience is the baklava, and if you fall short of time or energy, many local bakeries and some supermarkets sell it.

Couscous, available in most supermarkets and health food stores, is something like a small pasta made from semolina. In North Africa it's laboriously steamed, but the instant variety makes couscous the easiest part of the meal. Be careful not to add more boiling water than the instructions on the package call for or the couscous will come out soggy, not fluffy as it should be.

Menu

Eggplant Dip with Pita

Marinated Lamb Kebabs

Couscous With Seven Vegetables

Baklava Straws

STAPLES

Garlic

Onions

Olive oil

Carrots

1 (8-ounce) can garbanzo beans

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken or vegetable broth

Ground cumin

Cayenne

Salt

Pepper

Sugar

Cinnamon

Butter

SHOPPING LIST

1 (3- to 4-pound) leg of lamb

1 (8-ounce) bottle prune juice

2 zucchini

1 turnip

12 green beans

1 green bell pepper

1 small piece ginger root

1 SIZE TK package couscous

1 eggplant

1/4 pound shelled walnuts or almonds

1 (1-pound) package frozen filo dough

1 (4-ounce) bottle orange blossom water or 1 lemon

Game Plan

1 Day Before: Make eggplant dip and marinate lamb. Bake baklava straws.

1 Hour Before: Make vegetable stew. Take lamb out of refrigerator and place on skewers. Heat grill.

30 to 20 Minutes Before: Grill lamb kebabs.

Last Minute: Heat pita bread. Steam instant couscous.

MARINATED LAMB KEBABS

If you find lamb sausages in a market, substitute six of them for the marinated lamb.

1 (3- to 4-pound) leg of lamb

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup prune juice

Trim meat of all fat and cut into cubes. Place in non-reactive pan and mix with garlic, onion, oil and prune juice. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator 6 to 24 hours.

Place meat on skewers and cook over medium-hot coals until done, 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

267 calories; 85 mg sodium; 86 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 0.17 gram fiber.

COUSCOUS WITH SEVEN VEGETABLES

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced ginger root

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, sliced

2 zucchini, diced

1 turnip, diced

12 green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 (8-ounce) can garbanzos

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes or 4 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt, pepper

1 (10-ounce) package instant couscous

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and minced ginger and remove from fire. Stir well. Add onion and carrots and return pot to heat. Cook 3 to 4 minutes and add zucchini, turnip, green beans, bell pepper, garbanzos and tomatoes. Cook 1 minute and then add broth, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Stew slowly, partly covered, until vegetables are done, 30 to 40 minutes.

Five minutes before serving, prepare couscous in separate pot according to package directions. To serve, ladle couscous on plates and stew on top.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

343 calories; 345 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 47 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams protein; 0.14 gram fiber.

EGGPLANT DIP

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 eggplant, chopped

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pita bread

Heat oil in non-stick skillet. Stirring constantly, add garlic and cook 30 seconds, then add onion and cook 1 minute. Next add eggplant, tomatoes and cumin. Cook down until eggplant is quite soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Add water if the mixture dries out.

Serve hot or cold with warm pita bread.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each serving, without pita bread, contains about:

105 calories; 114 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 1 grams protein; 0.62 gram fiber.

BAKLAVA STRAWS

1/4 pound shelled walnuts or almonds, ground

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

12 sheets filo pastry, about 1/2 (1-pound) package

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, melted

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon orange blossom water or lemon juice

Mix nuts with sugar and cinnamon.

Place 3 sheets filo in 11x14-inch jelly roll pan, brushing each with melted butter. Spread 1/4 of nut mixture across shorter end of filo dough and, beginning from that end, roll dough up into straw shape. Cut into 3-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining filo and nut mixture.

Arrange straws on baking tin and bake at 325 degrees until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Place water and sugar in saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cool slightly and add orange blossom water.

Remove straws from oven and pour syrup over. Cool and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

502 calories; 284 mg sodium; 41 mg cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.87 gram fiber.

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