The actual title of today’s recipe is Saffron Couscous Cake with Spring Vegetable Saute, but this cold weather has inspired me to mention an alternative so that you don’t have to wait until Spring to try it.
Quite simply, you can top the couscous cake with any combination of your favorite vegetables, be they roasted root vegetables, roasted red bell peppers and zucchini, or an Asian vegetable stir-fry — they’re all good candidates to top this savory couscous cake. Here is the original recipe — you can make it as directed and “think Spring” or go with the season and roast a pan of your favorite autumn or winter vegetable combo.
Whether this dish is saffron flavored or saffron colored will depend on your budget. Made with either saffron or turmeric, it’s lovely served for a spring lunch or light supper.
To serve as a first course, you can cut the couscous cake into smaller wedges or place the couscous mixture into small ring molds or individual tart pans instead of the large springform pan.
Saffron Couscous Cake with Spring Vegetable Sauté
from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 large shallots, minced
2 cups instant couscous
3 cups hot vegetable broth
Pinch of ground saffron or turmeric
1?8 teaspoon cayenne
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into matchsticks
8 ounces thin asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1 large carrot, shredded
4 scallions, minced
2?3 cup fresh or thawed frozen baby peas
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or other herb
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the couscous and stir to coat with the oil. Stir in the hot broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the saffron, cayenne, and salt to taste. Cover and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Transfer the couscous to a lightly oiled 9-inch springform pan. Lightly press the couscous into the pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, release the springform pan, and cut the cake into 6 wedges. Place on the prepared baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until just hot, 12 to 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and asparagus and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, scallions, peas, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley.
5. Arrange the couscous wedges on individual plates, top with a large spoonful of the vegetables, and serve immediately.