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You may not have figured this out yet, but one of the many things that Anna and I have in common is a love of food. I love to cook (especially to bake, thanks mom). Anna loves to eat – and to talk, and write, about food.

So here at Ditch The Umbrella, we have decided to make Friday Food Day on our (emotional) calendar. We all know how a well-timed meal can heighten your sense of the season (or transport you to far-away places).  Healthy eating, like good sleep and exercise, is one of the cornerstones of a healthy body and mind. And most days, good food is enough to lift anyone’s mood.

For my first official Food Day post, I would like to invite you to journey with me to a place where the weather report is consistently sunny, and 62 degrees. Tunisia has been in the news lately for political unrest. If, like me, your knowledge of Tunisia’s history and culture is limited, I encourage you to read up on this fascinating north-African country. Or you can do what I did last weekend, and make yourself a variation of couscousi tunisie, a Tunisian stew as heart-warming on a cold winter’s night in Boston as it is on the Mediterranean shore.

With many thanks to Rachel, whose more culturally accurate version of the recipe can be found here.

Vegetarian Tunisian Couscous

Allow 40 – 45 minutes to cook
Feeds 5 people

Ingredients (with transliterated Arabic)

khodra (vegetables)
• 1 onion – DICED
• ½ kromp (cabbage) – THINLY SLICED
• 2 batata (potatoes) – CHOPPED INTO CHUNKS
• 3 sfineria (carrots) – SLICED INTO CIRCLES
• A lot of greens – I used spinach, but beet greens are better. – ROUGHLY CHOPPED
• 3 tbsp tomato paste
• 1 cup cooked fool (fava beans) (feel free to omit. I don’t like them.)
• 2 whole peppers – I used the spicier poblano, but green peppers are okay
• 2 cups couscous – Israeli or not.
• zeet zeetouna (olive oil)
spices
• melh (salt)
• harissa Arabi (a special type of spicy harissa paste used only in cooking. This is essential – although hot sauce is okay.)
• fil fil akhmar (paprika)
• black pepper

Directions

1. In a large soup-pan, cover bottom with oil (2 tbsp-ish) and cook onions on medium until translucent.
2. Add 3 tbs. of tomato paste diluted with ½ cup of water. You can dilute the paste before adding to the pan or after, either way works fine.
3. Add potatoes, cabbage carrots, and greens (everything but the poblano chili).
4. Add large pinch of paprika, and pinch of black pepper. Cook for two minutes.
5. Add approximately 5 cups of water. Add the fava beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
6. Add approximately 1/2 tbs. of the harissa Arabi paste to your liking. Stick to even less for shwaya har (a little spicy) or lean more towards 1 or 1½ tbs. for true Tunisian style, har (spicy).
7. Slit the green peppers (to let the juices in and out), and scrape out seeds.
8. In a small pan lightly coated in oil, pan-fry peppers until they are slightly tender, and slightly wrinkly. Keep them in there for a little longer. Set aside.
9. Cook soup until everything is tender (or for as long as you want – this is soup). Adjust spices to taste.
10. About 15 minutes before serving, prepare couscous according to directions on package. Or, use a steamer and cook directly on top of your simmering soup for a delicious flavor.
11. To Serve: put couscous in a large bowl. Pour two spoonfulls of sauce over and then all of the vegetables. Garnish with the roasted peppers. Serve the remaining sauce on the side for those who like it.

Weather: sunny and 62 degrees! Oh wait, that’s 32.

Moods:

Hannah: 7.5 out of 10 on the can’t get out of bed to jumping for joy scale. Looking forward to a good weekend.

Anna: 6.5 out of 10, for the same reason!

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