Moroccan-style Couscous Before the Yom Kippur Fast: A Recipe

Vegan or with meat, traditional couscous with stew is a clever choice both before and after the fast.

Like most other Jewish communities, Moroccan Jews break the Yom Kippur fast with a sweet drink, in their case tea with mint or spicy wormwood (shiba in Arabic), that is served with homemade marzipan and cookies. For the meal itself, many go for the classic soup of meat, chickpeas and rice called harira.

For Haaretz's guide to Yom Kippur, click here.

But there’s another classic Moroccan recipe that is ideal both for the seuda mafseket - the meal before the fast - and for breaking the fast. It’s a simple couscous dish that’s served with a stew of butternut squash or pumpkin, potato, carrots, and chickpeas and cooked with a little turmeric. This stew is delicious and fat free; the vegetables are high in carbs, the chickpeas provide protein, and whole wheat couscous is full of fiber. The combination helps you stay full for a long time, making it an ideal dish before fasting.

You can also cook everything the day before and quickly reheat at the end of Yom Kippur, making this a good choice for breaking the fast.

Another delicious version includes meat. I use short ribs, but any stew meat would work (as would chicken). This version is not fat free since the stew gets fat (and flavors) from the meat, but it is absolutely delicious.

Butternut squash, chickpea and turmeric couscous

Vegan, fat free and delicious! It’s also super easy to make.

Whole wheat couscous (available at Trader Joe’s, as well as other Middle Eastern and specialty markets) offers more nutritious value but if you can’t find it, regular couscous would work just fine.

For vegetable stock I prefer to use Better Than Bullion - Vegetable Base, available at most supermarkets.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable base, or 2 quarts vegetable stock

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch sections

1 yellow onion, quartered

1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas

1 butternut squash, peeled, cut into large chunks

2 zucchini, cut into 2-inch sections

3 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch slices

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

salt to taste

To serve:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

DIRECTIONS

1. Bring 2 quarts of water to boil. Add vegetable base and mix. (Alternately, bring 2 quart vegetable stock to boil.)

2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt, and cook for 1 hour, until all vegetables are tender.

3. Add salt to taste.

4. Prepare couscous according to package directions.

5. In each bowl put a few tablespoons of couscous, vegetables and chickpeas with some of the stock.

Short ribs, butternut squash, chickpea and turmeric couscous

Like other stews, this one would benefit from a night in the fridge to let the tastes develop. The next day, skim the fat from the top, reheat and serve over couscous.

I use short ribs here, but any stew meat or chicken dark meat will work as well. Follow the instructions as you would for short ribs.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

4 lb. bone-in short ribs (or 3 lb. no-bone)

Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

2 carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch sections

1 yellow onion, quartered

1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut to large chunks

2 zucchini, cut into 2-inch sections

3 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch slices

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

2 teaspoon turmeric

salt to taste

To serve:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

DIRECTIONS

1. Arrange short ribs on a tray. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on all sides and massage the meat.

2. Put a large heavy bottom pot (preferable Dutch oven) on a medium-high heat, add oil and sear meat on all sides for about 10 minutes total. Remove meat from pot and pour out all the fat.

3. Return meat to pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and skim any foam. Cover the pot, lower heat to low and cook for 1 1/2 hours, until meat is very tender. (If you’re using chicken, skip this step. Simply cover chicken with water, add the rest of the ingredients, and continue to the next step).

4. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, except for the salt. Add more boiling water, if needed, so that vegetables are nearly covered. Cook for 1 hour longer, until all vegetables are tender.

5. Add salt to taste.

6. Prepare couscous according to package directions.
In each bowl put a few tablespoons of couscous, plus meat, vegetables and chickpeas with some of the stock.