Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad

Merguez is a spicy African sausage usually made with lamb. It’s one of my favorites, and I wanted to suggest our school meat market start making it, but then I found a New York Times recipe that could be recreated at home without sausage casings. I didn’t think the recipe called for enough spice, so I added more paprika and cayenne.

Kat found a recipe for an herbed couscous salad with harissa and cherry tomatoes. It was the perfect side with the sausage, plus it used the harvest off my cherry tomato plant, my box of couscous and the can of harissa I bought at the eastern market a while ago. I am moving very soon and so every day is an effort to use up the goods that I have and not buy anything extra. The salad is supposed to have a lot more fresh herbs, but we weren’t about to go to the store, so we used the mint and cinnamon basil we could get off Kat’s plants.

I served the whole thing with a little plain yogurt since the sausage and couscous both had a lot of heat.

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Tunisian Stew, Moroccan Roast Chicken and Algerian Carrot Salad

Tunisian Stew

Michael and I cooked some impressive dinners for his parents and Kat’s parents, but we had to up the ante a bit for my family this winter. I’ve been cooking magazine meals with my parents for as long as I can remember. (I got my first subscription to Gourmet before I lost my first baby tooth. Not kidding.) So we decided to make a North African feast with lots of lamb, chicken and couscous.

I’ll say two words about this chicken: spice butter. Ok, I want to give you more words: Butter, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon. Rubbed all over. Now, I’m not normally a glutton for chicken skin, but spice butter. I ate everything but the bones.

Roast Chicken (Spiced Butter Rub)

And the dates and apricots in chicken jus? I didn’t even think I liked dates. (I tried one from the box the next day, and they’re nothing without being roasted in spice-buttered chicken jus. Just sayin.)

The stew was also great, even though we totally rushed the process. The Darwell family has too high of metabolism for slow food. Luckily the stew didn’t suffer. The broth was full of flavor and just barely spicy, even with a whole habanero. Though, I have to give credit to the Los Angeles grocery store and the country of Australia for the lamb, which managed to be fork-tender even though we lumped off probably an hour of cooking time.

Carrot Salad

We served the dishes with piles of couscous and a side of

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refreshing carrot and fennel slaw. For dessert, I kept the spice theme going by making dark chocolate tart with gingerbread crust a la Smitten Kitchen.

Choc Ginger Tart

Play some Algerian music from Cheb Mami, Rachid Taha or Khaled. Samira Said from Morocco is good too. If you can recommend any Tunisian artists, let me know.

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Curried Couscous with Cranberries

couscous

The best part about couscous is that it cooks in five minutes. And it soaks up flavors so well. And it’s light and fluffy. And, oh yeah, you could be eating it less than 10 minutes from now.

This recipe involves slightly more prep, but it’s still absurdly easy. We ate this as a side with a goat rack rubbed with ras el hanout. It works hot or cold, and is great with tzaziki.

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