Seven is a lucky number in many religions, including Judaism. The world was created in seven days; together, the patriarchs and matriarchs add up to seven; at a Jewish wedding, there are seven blessings; and so on.
It is no wonder, then, that on Rosh Hashanah — when we try to do everything we can to ensure good luck for the coming year — there is a tradition of eating seven vegetables. Among North African Jews, especially those of Moroccan origin, Couscous with Seven Vegetables is a traditional and cherished Rosh Hashanah dish. The couscous has a special significance: The many tiny grains represent a wish for a year with countless blessings.
With many of us rethinking our Rosh Hashanah celebrations this year, it seems fitting to change up the traditional holiday fare.
Rosh Hashanah occurs at a time of year when many vegetables are at their peak, such as squash and root vegetables, which are perfect for this dish. The vegetables in the recipe are only a suggestion — feel free to play around, just make sure you have a variety of textures and flavors.
Moroccan food is highly seasoned, but not spicy. So you will notice a wide range of spices in this dish, from paprika to cinnamon. I highly recommend seeking out the North African spice blend ras el hanout. When added at the end of cooking, ras el-hanout adds sweet, earthy and even floral notes to your dish. That’s because it is a mix of many different ingredients including pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cumin, cardamom pods, rose petals and grains of paradise. You can find ras el hanout at a good spice shop, a grocery store with a good spice selection (like Whole Foods, which does carry their own) or online.
Note: You can make the stew (Directions 1-4) ahead of time.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 2 red peppers, chopped
- 2 zucchini, halved and cut into wedges
- 2–3 small turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 bunch carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 4 cups vegetable broth or water
- 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 tsp ras el hanout
- 2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- handful slivered almonds (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 box instant couscous (about ⅓ cup)
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the garlic and tomatoes and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and spices, and stir to combine. Sauté the mixture for a few additional minutes until fragrant, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
- Add the red peppers, zucchini, turnips, carrots and squash, as well as the broth or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove cover and add chickpeas. Simmer until chickpeas are heated through and stew is thickened, another 5-10 minutes. (May be done ahead up to this point.)
- Meanwhile, make couscous according to package directions. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove cover and fluff couscous with a fork to break up any clumps.
- Just before serving, add the ras el hanout to the stew. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- To serve, spread the couscous on a platter or shallow dish with a well in the middle. Spoon the vegetable stew over the couscous. Garnish with chopped parsley and slivered almonds, if using.
You can make the stew (Directions 1-4) ahead of time.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Entree
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Sephardi