I like it when things can’t be labeled with a single word. Primary colors mixing into shades with the most ridiculous names. Outfits of clothes so weirdly combined that my head uncontrollably turns to take another look. Movies that have to be watched three times to get a grip of what they really are about. Issues so controversial that I can’t seem to agree with myself on them. I like it when things make you wonder, however insignificant they may be.
I obviously like it in food, too, a complexity of flavors that asks for savoring every forkful, to guess the ingredients, to try finding appropriate adjectives to describe them. Ottolenghi’s Plenty, which I got as a late Christmas gift and haven’t stop flicking through since, delivers a ton of such recipes, perhaps slightly more complicated than what I would normally cook, but well worth the extra steps. I usually can’t follow cooking instructions, but here I did my best, swapping only two ingredients due to the current stock of my kitchen.
The pilaf is very warm (too weird? sorry!) and full in terms of flavor, working great as a main dish on its own despite being pretty much just spiced couscous. Plus, it’s ready in 20 minutes and asks for nothing else than pantry food!
Sweet and Spicy Couscous with Bell Pepper and Cranberries
(adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Itamar’s Bulghar Pilaf, found in Plenty)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion
1 medium red bell pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1½ tsp sugar
1½ tsp Aleppo pepper (pink pepper, milder and fruitier than black pepper)
1½ tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp dried cranberries (originally currants)
½ cup couscous (originally bulgur)
½ cup water
Slice the onion and bell pepper into thin strips, or just chop them up however you like. Heat olive oil, over medium heat, add the vegetables and fry until they soften, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and spices, as well as the cranberries. Stir, let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the couscous and cover with water, put the lid on, lower the heat and let cook until the grains swell and soften, about 5 minutes. Add water by tablespoons if necessary.
Add salt and pepper to taste.