Part of our Saturday routine — “our” referring to my spouse & I, not some royal ‘we’ — is to go to the Farmers’ Market and the butcher shop. Additional stops may be at a supermarket, though I try to avoid those on the weekend. In the winter, this routine changes slightly since there aren’t many fresh vegetables around. We are, however, fortunate that there is a Winter Market downtown. Although the vegetable crops are sparse, we still go to get farm fresh eggs, fresh-baked bread, and sometimes out-of-the-ordinary items that other vendors may be selling.
Back in November, I noticed that a local charcuterier was selling merquez sausage. I had only had merquez, a spicy Moroccan lamb and beef (or sometimes pork) treat, a few times in restaurants. I’d never seen it in stores around here. Not knowing how I was going to prepare it, I bought a 1 lb package and figured I’d spend the afternoon researching what I was going to serve for dinner. I didn’t have to search long! Although there were many recipes on the web that I could have used, what evolved is a combination of several recipes. Since I first tried the following dish, it has been a favorite in my house. This recipe is for 2 plentiful servings; adjust as meets your needs.
Place four merquez sausages with a 1/4 cup of water in a skillet over medium heat. Cook slowly — about 25 minutes. The water will have evaporated and the sausages browned and heated thoroughly.
In another pan, bring water to a boil and add leafy greens to blanch for 1 minute. I think this is best with a hardy kale, but have used collard, spinach and Red Russian kale. Red Russian Kale, pictured in the photos below, was a bit too delicate for this dish in my opinion.
Drain the greens and reserve one cup of the cooking liquid. Admire how pretty the liquid looks. Cool the greens and then chiffonade. If using something like Dino Kale, you may want to remove the leaves from the stems before blanching. Don’t throw them away — just add to the boiling water for an extra 2 – 3 minutes before the leaves.
In a skillet, sauté 1 onion and 1 -2 gloves of garlic. I think that butter always adds a nice richness to sautéed onions, but olive oil is perfectly fine. When the onion is a nice brown color, add 1/2 t of red pepper flakes, 1 t of cumin, 1 t of cinnamon. Continue cooking for 1 -2 minutes. Then add any combination of the following: red raisins, golden raisins, chopped apricots, chopped figs. My favorite is figs and apricots, but I will throw in raisins too if I have some on hand. I didn’t have any last Saturday, so I added dried cherries, which was a flavorful change for this dish. Stir for another minute or two, add the greens, and the reserved liquid. It should come to a boil quickly; reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Cook 1 cup of couscous according to directions on the package; usually 1 cup water, 1 cup couscous. Most couscous suggests adding butter; I usually don’t. I like the look of the tri-color couscous, but plain tastes the same on my palate; I’d use either in this dish. By the time that the couscous is done, the sausage should be too. Plate the greens & fruit combo on top of the couscous, and then top with sausage. If you like to have wine with dinner, a Rioja or a Shiraz would be a good choice. For something non-alcoholic, consider a traditional Moroccan mint tea.
If you can’t find merquez in your area, substitute another spicy sausage, such as Spanish Chorizo or andouille.