Recipe: Liora's Festive Vegetable Couscous

Enriched with caramelized onions, with just a whisper of sweetness from the raisins and a touch of cinnamon, this makes an excellent vegetarian main course or hearty side dish for Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, or any time of the year.

See Jayne Cohen’s story about Moroccan Jewish cuisine. 

Yield: 10 servings

photo by Liora Kushner

photo by Liora Kushner


Caramelized onions:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For the vegetables:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 1 head of garlic (about 10 cloves), peeled
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks 
  • 3 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into chunks 
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon paprika 
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Touch of cinnamon, to taste
  • 2 dried chilies (can choose chilies according to level of heat desired)
  • 3 medium waxy potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 3 zucchinis, cut into chunks
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned is fine), drained
  • ½ butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks

For the couscous:

  • 3 cups couscous
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ to ¾ cup golden raisins
  • 4½ cups broth (chicken or vegetable – choose your favorite kind)

For the garnish:

  • Flat-leaf parsley, chopped; toasted pine nuts; and/or paprika



  1. In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over low heat. Stir in the onions and sugar, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are caramelized and beautifully brown. This may take up to two hours, so while they are cooking, prepare everything else.
  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole. Add the garlic, carrots and celery, and sauté for a couple of minutes just until the aroma rises. Don’t allow the garlic to brown. Add the tomato paste, paprika, salt, and pepper and sauté for a few more minutes, stirring, until the paste caramelizes a bit and turns darker.
  3. Add water to cover plus an additional 8 cups. Add dried chilies. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook for about 8 minutes until vegetables soften just a bit. Add potatoes and cook for 6 more minutes. Add the zucchini and chickpeas and cook for 3 more minutes. Add butternut squash and cook until tender, about 5 more minutes (exact times will vary, according to the size and freshness of the vegetables).
  4. When the vegetables are ready, ladle about 4 cups of their cooking liquid into a wide saucepan. Boil the liquid, uncovered, over high heat until reduced to about 1 cup (this will be the sauce).
  5. Put the couscous in a large, shallow baking dish, such as a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex pan. Season with turmeric and salt and mix well. Add the oil and mix again. Sprinkle with the raisins. Bring the broth to a boil and pour over couscous mixture. Stir well, and make sure the couscous is spread out evenly in the pan and everything is moistened with the hot broth. Immediately cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and let the couscous rest for 10-15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Use a fork to break up any lumps and fluff the couscous.
  6. To serve, mix the couscous with the caramelized onions and arrange in a pyramid on a platter. Make a well in the center, and spoon in the vegetables, drained. Ladle the reduced sauce over all. To garnish, sprinkle with parsley, pine nuts, and/or paprika.


From Liora Kushner, owner of Liora’s Caterin