Roasted Moroccan Vegetables with Couscous

If you live in the Bay Area and enjoy eating produce but don’t want to commit to a CSA, you should check out Mariquita Farms. Years ago, I read an article about them, probably on The Kitchn, (actually, it was, I just found it: https://www.thekitchn.com/weekend-meditation-the-mystery-46087), and living in Northern Virginia I was jealous I didn’t have access to what sounded like a cool concept: periodic deliveries of “mystery boxes” of produce on a pay-as-you-want-to-receive-it basis, instead of locking yourself into an entire season of weekly CSA boxes you might not be able to consume all of. I never forgot about that article but I may have forgotten where the farm even was. But then I moved to the Bay Area years later and someone told me about Mariquita Farms, and I realized it was the place from that article, so I immediately signed up for their mailing list. I don’t order from them every time they do an East Bay drop-off (though I sometimes do a peninsula order as well), but when it does fit into my schedule, I’m never disappointed. In addition to the “mystery box” (which isn’t entirely a mystery as they’ll give you a pretty good idea of what to expect based on which crops are ready), they usually have additional items you can order in bulk. Last year instead of doing the pick-your-own tomatoes I had done the prior two years when it was tomato canning time, I just ordered 60 pounds of Romas through Mariquita and picked them up in Palo Alto.

This week’s mystery box was probably my favorite so far. It included:

  • Several red onions
  • Some new potatoes
  • A huge bunch of chard
  • Two different types of basil
  • Lots of jalapenos
  • Another kind of chili pepper
  • 4 eggplants
  • A bunch of beets
  • Four different kinds of tomatoes!

I think that’s it? I might be forgetting something. In addition to all that, I ordered a bunch of extras:

  • Two 5-pound bags of tomatillos so I can make and can salsa verde this weekend
  • One 5-pound bag of lemons
  • One 5-pound bag of cured red onions
  • One 5-pound bag of avocados

I should have taken photos of everything before I put it all away, but here are some of the tomatoes:

The lemons I bought so I could make some preserved lemons, which I am out of. To make preserved lemons, you cut a few lemons into quarters (traditionally, you don’t cut them all the way so the lemon opens like a flower, but I never use more than a quarter at a time and they fit in the jar better separated so I cut them into actual quarters), toss them very generously with salt, optionally add some spices (I used peppercorns and bay leaves this time), then juice enough additional lemons that the juice covers all the lemons, put a lid on the jar, and shake it every day for a month or so until the rind has softened enough that it’s edible. Then to use, you pull out what you need, rinse the extra salt off, and chop it up.

I frequently use preserved lemons in Moroccan tagines, so I got the idea to make a Moroccan-inspired meal last night, even though my lemons are a month from being preserved. But I also had picked up some Hodo Soy Moroccan Tofu Cubes the other day I wanted to try. I don’t tend to buy a lot of pre-flavored items like this because I prefer making my own sauces, and they tend to be expensive, but I love Hodo Soy (especially since they are based in Oakland, so they are local!). Here’s what I did:

Roasted Moroccan Vegetables with Couscous
1 eggplant, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large, mild chili pepper, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cup vegan “chicken” or vegetable broth, divided
1 Tbsp Instant Gel
1 Tbsp Trader Joe’s harissa sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 package Hodo Soy Hodo Soy Moroccan Tofu Cubes
lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place chopped veggies on a baking tray and toss with olive oil. Roast about half an hour.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of the broth to a boil. Put the couscous in a bowl, pour in the boiling broth and stir, then cover and set aside for 15 minutes. When the time is up, fluff with a fork.

Whisk together the remaining broth and the harissa sauce and cumin. Slowly whisk in the Instant Gel to thicken it a little.

Separately, heat the tofu cubes – I just used the microwave.

To serve, spoon some of the sauce over the roasted veggies, and serve over the couscous with the tofu cubes. Drizzle with fresh-squeezed lemon.

In other news, yeah, I was kinda on a roll with posting there for a short while then stopped when I went from my typical insanely busy to EXTRA insanely busy with dollops of both very expensive cat AND car problems. Cats and cars are all back home and in working order for the moment, so maybe my life will return to what passes for normal. I also have an owl in the house at the moment! Something that I’ve been doing for the last few months that has made a big difference in my life – and something that I NEVER thought I’d be into doing – is going to the gym for classes at 5:30 a.m. several days a week. I feel SO much better, physically and emotionally, on gym days, and I actually enjoy being there and enjoy the company of the others in my class, and our trainer is completely awesome. I work better on gym days, too. This morning as I was driving back home after class, the sun was just barely trying to rise and peek out from the morning fog that is typical to this area (but which hasn’t been around much the last few weeks), and I noticed the light off in the distance looked really, really cool. When I got home I found the light off my balcony (still my favorite spot in my place!!) was extra beautiful. The photos I took don’t really capture it at all, but this is an approximation (you can click for a bigger version). My life has been somewhat troubled this month, but in the grand scheme of things, I am a very, very fortunate person.

1 Comment »

  1. Josiane Said,

    August 17, 2018 @ 3:37 pm

    Getting boxes of produce with extras as you need and want them sounds fabulous. I wish we had a farm that did something like that here too!

    Your Moroccan-inspired dish looks great. It’s been ages (possibly a decade or two, seriously!) since I last made couscous at home, for no particular reason. Your dish made me realize it’s time to reintroduce it into my repertoire. Once again, thanks for the inspiration!

    It’s awesome that you’ve found gym classes that work for you, and that they have such a positive impact in your days and life! I bet it helped you keep going while you were dealing with the cat and car problems on top of everything else. I’m crossing fingers that things are still working well and you can enjoy your favorite kind of normal. 🙂

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