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Couscous Cakes with Tomato Ragout

My friend Amy is, in my opinion, the best kind of vegetarian. (Ooh, I’m going to get all opinionated on vegetarianism and make myself some enemies. Watch out for the flame wars in the comments!) No, but seriously, I think that she really does it right. Believe it or not, as an omnivore I’ve never really understood why there has to be such a dichotomy between vegetarianism and the rest of us. I mean yes, of course, for a vegetarian there is a clear line in the sand: no meat. But for the rest of us? What the big deal? As an omnivore most of my meals each week are actually vegetarian. Why would I need to conceive of them as “vegetarian food” instead of just “food”?

Here’s a case in point. I was once in the grocery store and watched an older woman approach a teenage employee who was stocking the dairy case with yogurt. She asked him, “Can you tell me where I can find vegetarian food?” Silence. Then a lot of blinking. I could practically see the gears in his head working to try to figure out what she meant. Finally he politely replied, “Well, if you’re looking for prepared meals there are some organic vegetarian meals in the frozen food section.” Her reply? “Oh, forget it.” I’m convinced she had someone coming to her house who was a vegetarian and she didn’t know what to feed him or her.

What I like about this story is that I think it does two things: 1. It demonstrates that omnivores really need to be broken out of seeing food as dichotomous categories of “vegetarian” and “not vegetarian” and 2. it shows that the younger generations may not be making that mistake. This gets me back to what I was saying about my friend Amy being the best kind of vegetarian. She makes food that is delicious, nourishing, and satisfying. It’s a joy to eat and, as an omnivore, I never ever miss the meat. This is one of her recipes and if I didn’t point out to you that it’s a vegetarian dish I don’t think you’d ever notice.

Plain Couscous
2 cups water
½ tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.5 cups couscous

In a medium saucepan with a lid bring the water to a boil. Add in the salt and olive oil. Add in the couscous and stir to combine. Put the lid on the pot and remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit for 5 minutes and the couscous will be ready. Allow the couscous to cool a bit before using so you can handle it.

 

Tomato Ragout
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp minced garlic
½ cup white wine
2 cans diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz each
1 tsp salt
3 grinds freshly ground pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Over medium heat in a large saucepan add the onion and sweat down until the onions are translucent. Then add the garlic and allow it cook, while stirring, for two minutes. Ad in the white wine and stir.

When the wine stops bubbling, add in the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. Allow it to simmer for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the couscous cakes.

 

Couscous Cakes
1 batch plain couscous, recipe above
1 tsp salt
3 grinds fresh black pepper
3 eggs
1/3 cup flour
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¾ cup crumbled blue cheese

Olive oil for frying

Place the cooked and cooled couscous in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Using your hands form the couscous mixture into patties and place in the oil once it is hot. Cook until the couscous cakes are golden brown on one side and then flip with a spatula and a fork. When the other side is golden brown and delicious remove it from the pan to some paper towels to drain.

Serve with the ragout on top.

Makes 10-12 cakes