Couscous was the first “exotic” vegetarian food I tried. It was considered pretty exotic back in my early veg days anyway. You might even have had to make a trip to Whole Foods for it. That was way before rural supermarket shelves became littered with the likes of miso and quinoa. And the couscous I ate back then generally came with some type of prepackaged flavor mix. Apricot mint couscous was unheard of, and harissa, well, I’d literally never heard of it.
It was at some point during my first few meatless months that someone suggested I try it. I think the thinking was something along the lines of, “Oh, you’re a vegetarian, so you should eat this weird stuff.” Well, eat it I did. Shortly thereafter it became common practice for me to cook up and eat a package of couscous for dinner, like, four or five times a week.
So, I really haven’t eaten a whole lot of couscous as an adult, because I kind of got my fill between the ages of 13 and 18. Every now and then I pick it up and try something new though. It really is good stuff, if not so exotic on it’s own, certainly when dressed up with the fancy likes of dried apricots and harissa baked tofu.
I realized after I made, ate and photographed this dish that my one other couscous dish on the blog (this one) also involves mint and tofu. Despite this fact, they are pretty darn distinct, which is why I probably missed that initially.
This dish has all kinds of different flavors going on. Spicy harissa, savory scallions, sweet apricots and minty…um…mint. I loved how it turned out and really wouldn’t want to miss any one of those flavors. It’s got it’s share of textures too, not the least of which comes from the baked tofu. Baking tofu slowly draws out the moisture, so you get something firmer, chewier and heartier than you might with other cooking methods. Brushing your tofu with harissa and then baking it gives it just the perfect level of spicy kick to compliment all of the other flavors going on.
Apricot Mint Couscous with Baked Harissa Tofu
For the Baked Harissa Tofu
- 1 lb. extra firm tofu drained, pressed at least 15 minutes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 tbsp. harissa
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- dash salt
For the Couscous
- 1-10 oz. package couscous about 1 1/2 cups
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 cup dried apricots finely chopped
- 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves chopped
- 2 scallions chopped
- extra harissa for topping
Make the Baked Harissa Tofu
- Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Stir together harissa, lemon juice, olive oil and salt in a small bowl.
- Arrange tofu cubes in a single layer on baking sheet. Brush with half of harissa mixture. Bake 20 minutes, gently turn and brush with other half of harissa mixture. Bake another 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
Make the Couscous
- Prepare couscous according to package directions. Stir in lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, salt, pepper, apricots, almonds, mint and scallions. Stir in baked tofu.
- Divide onto plates and serve with extra harissa.