Moroccan Turkey Couscous and Sweet Roasted Vegetables

The Scent of Orange BlossomsThe Scent of Orange Blossoms
I love Moroccan food. So much so that in a former life, I hosted an annual Moroccan dinner for 15 people and forced them to sit on the floor and eat with their hands. (That was back when I was hip and had a life. Now, I have 3 kids and a dog. No way would I get near my floor.) When most people think of Morocco they picture it in black and white with Bogart on a foggy runway. For me, when I think of Morocco, I think of cinnamon, honey, almonds and braised meats that melt in your mouth. Moroccan food is a tasty blend of North African tradition and French technique with a dash of Sephardic flavors thrown in and it’s just so good.

I have gathered a number of Moroccan cookbooks over the years but one of my favorites, especially this season, is a collection of Sephardic recipes from Kitty Morse called The Scent of Orange Blossoms. (Kitty is fabulous. I have taken a number of her cooking classes, and her easy preserved lemon recipe is hands down the best one out there. I use it every year for my Meyer Lemons. In this video she teaches how to make them.) The recipes are traditional and the flavors are outstanding as well as being very appropriate for the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur season, whether you are celebrating or not. Really, you don’t need a special occasion. I have listed a couple of my personal favorites from the book below. (Seriously, try the roasted vegetables. Oh. My. Lord.) Enjoy! and Happy Fall!

If you find you like the flavors of Morocco and want to explore further, I recommend the following cookbooks for your culinary adventure: Cooking At The Kasbah by Kitty Morse and The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfort

Turkey Couscous for Yom Kippur
(Couscous à la Dinde de Yom Kippur)
From Kitty Morse, The Scent of Orange Blossoms
Couscous topped with sweetened, caramelized vegetables and dusted with cinnamon was the signature dish of Morocco’s Sephardic Jews. It wasn’t until the mid-1950’s that they followed the lead of Algerian Sephardim and Moroccan Muslims, to adopt a savory couscous.

4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 onions quartered
3 turkey legs (about 3 1/2 pounds)
1 (14 1/4-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
15 sprigs cilantro, tied together with kitchen twine
10 2/3 cups water
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch sticks
4 turnips, peeled and quartered
1 pound pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 small cabbage quartered
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained
2 cups couscous
1/4 cup raisins, plumped in warm water and drained
Confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons *harissa (optional)

*You can purchase harissa in Piedmont Grocery’s International Foods section, and there is also a Kitty Morse recipe below.

In a couscoussier or large soup pot over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, and 8 cups of the water. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium and add the turmeric, ginger, carrots, and turnips. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender 20 to 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200º. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to an overproof dish and place them in the oven to keep warm. Add the pumpkin and the cabbage to the pot. Cook, covered, until the pumpkin is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, add the vegetables to the pan in the oven. Discard the cilantro. Add 4 teaspoons of the salt, the pepper, and garbanzos to the pot. Keep it simmering until you are ready to serve.

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. In a saucepan, combine the remaining 2 2/3 cups water, the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Add the couscous and the raisins in a stream. Stir once, cover, and set aside until the couscous is tender 12 to 15 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and mound it on a large serving platte. Top with the cooked vegetables and turkey legs. Remove the garbanzo beans from the pot with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle the beans over the platter and dust with sugar, In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the cooking liquid with the harissa. Serve on the side, along with another bowl filled with the remaining cooking liquid.

Sweet Roasted Vegetables for Rosh Hashanah
(Légumes Sucrés de Rosh Hashanah)
From Kitty Morse, The Scent of Orange Blossoms
Sweet roasted vegetables receive a special berah (blessing) during Rosh Hashanah. The vegetables symbolize a family’s hopes for a new year filled with happiness and prosperity. According to tradition, the various vegetables are kept separate on the serving platter to facilitate their selection as they are blessed.

1 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
12 leeks, white part only, sliced in half lengthwise
10 small turnips, peeled and quartered
12 boiling onions, peeled
6 zucchini, peeled and cut into 5-inch sticks
2 pounds butternut or winter squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
5 sticks cinnamon
1 cup raisins
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 450º. Sprinkle the garbanzos in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Pour the 1 cup oil into a bowl. Add the carrots and toss to coat. With a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to the roasting pan and set atop the garbanzo beans. Proceed in the same manner with the leeks, turnips, onions, zucchini, and squash, layering the vegetables as you go. Sprinkle the dish with the cinnamon sticks, raisins, sugar, salt, pepper and water.

Roast until the vegetables turn light brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 350º. Continue to roast until the vegetables are tender and caramelized, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Add the 2 tablespoons oil, if necessary, to prevent the vegetables from drying out. Serve hot.


6 to 8 dried New Mexico Chilies
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 tsp Tabil (see below) or 1 tsp cumin
1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil

Seed chilies, cut into pieces, and put them in a bowl. Pour hot water over them and soak until they turn quite soft. 15 minutes to 1 hour. Drain them and squeeze out the excess water.

Place the chilies and all other ingredients in a food processor. Process to a paste.

To Store
Place in a small glass jar with a thin layer of olive oil over the top and seal tightly.

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