When I was a child, my family was living in Portugal and, on my seventh birthday, we took a boat trip to Morocco. My favorite part of the trip was when my family sang "Happy Birthday" to me at dinner, and my younger sister approached all of the passengers who weren't singing and shamed them into joining in. My least favorite part of the trip was when we arrived in the port and some of the merchants offered to trade me for a toy camel. My parents thought it was funny, but I was afraid they'd accept.
Fast forward to last April when my husband and I traveled with our kids on our first trans-Atlantic trip to Paris. My husband ordered this Moroccan couscous for lunch one day and, much to my surprise, all of the kids loved it. I think the plethora of carrots and potatoes made it more palatable. When we got home, I hurried to recreate the dish before they forgot that they liked it.
If you can get ras-el-hanout, use it; otherwise, it is easy to make your own spice blend. The spices in my version are intensly flavorful, which is a nice complement to the mild couscous.
For the spice mixture, use 6 teaspoons ras-el-hanout or make your own blend:
teaspoon ground ginger
teaspoon ground black pepper
To finish the dish:
tablespoon olive oil
small onion, diced
garlic cloves, chopped
carrots, peeled and sliced
potato, peeled and sliced
28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes with their juice, chopped
Mix the spices in a small bowl with a whisk. Heat a large skilled over medium heat and add the spices. Toast them just until they are fragrant, probably less than a minute. Pour the spices back into a bowl and set them aside.
Add the oil to the skillet turn the heat up to medium high. Add the onion and saute until it softens, about 7 minutes.
Add the garlic, carrots, and potato and saute for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices and the spice mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and carrots soften, about 20 minutes.
Add the zucchini and chick peas and heat until the zucchini has cooked and the beans have heated through, about 5 minutes.
When the vegetables have finished cooking, taste them and add more salt and pepper if you like. Heap the couscous in the middle of a large shallow bowl. Spoon the vegetable mixture over the top.