Chicken Couscous

There is something about porch doors that stir up memories of summer.  They remind me of the bungalow colony in the Catskills where we stayed with the “mima” and my cousins,  of day trips to family and friends in cottage country outside of Toronto, and of the weekends we spent at my aunt’s house in New Jersey.  The center screen invites you to peek inside, like a window without a curtain, and offers you a chance to call out and see if anyone is home without having to knock.  Then there is that particular sound that a porch door makes as it slams shut, that hard clap that announces your arrival and your departure.  Best of all, you can smell what’s cooking as you pass by.

When we redid our kitchen several years ago, I went on a mission looking for a porch door in various architectural salvage yards, and when I finally found one, it needed to be restored.  We brought it home and after it was sanded down, painted, and re-screened, it was installed on the laundry closet inside my service porch, as a reminder.  When I’m home, you will find that I always keep my kitchen windows open (and curtain free) so you can still peek in, call out my name, and smell what’s cooking.  Come on in!

Chicken Couscous

3 lbs boneless chicken thighs. cut in half
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thirds
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
any type of orange fleshed squash, peeled and thickly sliced
4  Mexican squash or zucchini, sliced in half, lengthwise
1 bunch cilantro
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder, or less depending on your taste
salt and pepper to taste
½ Tb paprika
½ Tb cinnamon
½ Tb cumin
1/2 cup golden raisins

Saute thighs and onions in olive oil till golden, meanwhile sprinkling with spices.  Allow to fry for several more minutes and add tomato paste, chickpeas and 1 cup of water.  Season with salt and pepper bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook for about 15 minutes.  Add about 4 cups of water to the pot along with the orange squash, sweet potatoes and carrots.  Cook for about 45 minutes.  Add zucchini, raisins and cilantro and cook on low flame til vegetables are tender.

Prepare couscous according to directions on the box. Before serving take a ladle of the broth and stir it into the couscous which will give it a beautiful color.  Mound couscous in the center of a large platter and surround with meat and vegetables.  Place broth is a small bowl to serve on the side.  Serves 6-8

Enjoy,

Irene

Sweet Couscous

It was in the early 1980s when Norm and I decided to build our first Sukkah.  Neither of us had grown up with one, and so we had no family traditions to help guide us.  We had to create our own, discover our own way, and find traditions that we were comfortable with.  One year we used fresh fruit to decorate the Sukkah, fruit that began to decompose over the course of the week.  It seemed out of sync with the festive atmosphere we were trying to create, not to mention the waste, and so we switched to plastic fruits.  Over the years we experimented with the size of the Sukkah, materials, lighting, choice of plants for schach, and decorations.  It has always been a work in progress, and from year to year it changes slightly, as we do.

Each year my mother would come to our Sukkah and reminisce about her childhood in Poland, recalling how her father would insist on eating all of his meals in their Sukkah.  She said that even if it was pouring, he would sit there, the rain streaming down his face, though his beard, and into his soup.  That story was repeated to us each year and out of that shared memory a new tradition grew.  We realized that when my mother spoke of her father it was almost as if he was with us, sitting in our Sukkah.  Now, each year we go around the table and ask our guests the following question. ” If you could invite anyone to join you in the Sukkah, who would that be?”  We have had kings and politicians, musicians and celebrities, family members who have passed away and family members who are just far away.  Along with the Ushpizin, all of our guests, present and imaginary, make this holiday magical.  Chag Sameach.

This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s  The Book of Jewish Food.

Sweet Couscous

Prepare 1 lb. of couscous by placing grain in a large bowl.  Using a total of about 2 1/2 cups of warm water, add a few tablespoons of water at a time and let it absorb into the couscous.  Using your fingers, plump up couscous, breaking up any lumps. Repeat till couscous is soft but not wet. Couscous will double in bulk.

To this basic recipe add:

1 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes,  and chopped up.

1 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced

1/2  cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/4 cup sugar combined with cinnamon to taste

Shape couscous into a cone and decorate with lines of cinnamon mixed with sugar.

Enjoy,

Irene