In spite of what it may look like, we don't eat fancy gourmet meals every single day. In fact, our usual fare consists of juice, green smoothie and a rather simple dinner. Normally on the menu is soup, salad and a no-brainer entree, such as crackers and spread, or what I call 'raw fast food' - wraps, pizza, pasta or burgers.
But once in a while, I get in the mood to prepare something special and more involved. You know, treat ourselves to a raw feast. In this new 'Raw Gourmet Review' series, you are invited to join us in our latest epicurean adventures.
Let's inaugurate in style with a meal inspired by North African cuisine: Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis' Pumpkin and Squash Couscous with Habanero Harissa, Currants and Almond Oil. (Recipe available in their book Raw Food Real World.)
This elaborate entree was so eloquently praised on Raw Freedom Community, I just couldn't resist tackling it, regardless of it being somewhat intimidating. (These two sure have a knack for long complicated titles!)
The entire meal consisted of 4 recipes: Pumpkin and Squash Mixture, Habanero Harissa, Lemon Spiced Pumpkin Seeds and Couscous.
In order to lighten up the work load, I decided to prepare the different components over 2 days. This turned out to be a great idea! Kinda hard to relax and have fun in the kitchen while working within a time line.
While I had most ingredients on hand, I was forced to do a fair bit of improvisation along the way. Subbing is always a bit of a gamble, but I have to admit it's one aspect of raw food prep I particularly enjoy.
First on my list was the harissa, made with tomatoes, bell peppers, habanero peppers, shallot, agave syrup and oil. I was advised by Being in her post that this was one very HOT sauce. I don't know if it's due to our changing taste buds or what, but Don and I can hardly tolerate much heat in our food anymore. I shriek sometimes at the amount of hot peppers that some recipes call for, and this one was definitely no exception! I opted for the milder jalapeno instead, and cut dramatically down on the quantity. (There was simply no way I was gonna use 4 cups of hot peppers! lol) I also used red onion instead of shallot.
It may sound like there isn't much to this particular recipe, but the result was fantastic! The key was undoubtedly the dehydration step prior to blending the harissa. I was grateful I went easier on the hot stuff, as it turned out perfect for our taste.
The following day, I worked on the rest of the meal.
The pumpkin seeds were very similar to the seasoned seeds I regularly prepare - soaked, then dehydrated with generous sprinkles of salt and lemon powder (although I used lemon zest instead).
Next was the Pumpkin and Squash Mixture. I replaced the pumpkin and goldbar squash called for with pattypan and zucchini. I also used the white part of a few green onions rather than shallot. I mixed these with the exotic blend of spices, then popped the seasoned veggies in the D.
Half-way through dehydration, while scanning over the recipe, I realized I had completely forgotten to put almond milk in the mixture. I didn't even have to break stride; I simply added a few Tbs of cashew cream I had in the fridge (mixed with a little water), to the dish. It worked seamlessly. Once again, I was reminded of how much more fun it is to go with what's happening, rather than trying to get things 'just so'.
Close to serving time, I began to work on the couscous. This is where I had to considerably improvise, not having 3 out of 5 ingredients! lol I have to admit I am particularly pleased with how well I fared. Jicama being difficult to find around here, I replaced it with pattypan squash and a few pieces of pear (for sweetness). Lastly, I subbed raisins for the currants, and olive oil for almond oil. Pine nuts gave the couscous the perfect consistency and a subtle flavor. (I sure was glad I had some of those! lol)
The assembled Pumpkin and Squash Couscous with Habanero Harissa was unlike anything we've ever tasted before. Some meals are memorable and really stand out - this is definitely one of them! Exquisitely delicate and exotic; each component (down to the pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top) contributing to a sublime balance.
And I assure you, definitely worth the effort!
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