Guy Fawkes Night & Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous

Bonfire Night - geograph.org.uk - 1034248If you know me at all, you know I dread November. By the fourth or fifth of October, a defense mechanism sets in and I lose track of time. All too soon, it’s Halloween. This fabulous eve of ghosts and goblins seems to come only minutes after the Columbus Day leaf peeper invasion. And then, it’s November.

Gray, dreary, cold November; there’s nothing to look forward to until the end of the month. Finally, Thanksgiving pulls us out of the doldrums and lifts our spirits. Or so I thought; until I remembered Guy Fawkes Night is tomorrow! An English holiday, it’s rarely, if ever, celebrated on this side of the pond. Who cares? Heck, it’s dark at 4:30 in the afternoon; we could all use, make that need, a little frivolity.

Guy Fawkes was part of a rebellious group who tried to blow up the English House of Lords and take down King James I. He was caught, tortured, tried and found guilty. He would have been hung but he committed suicide before anyone could get a rope around his neck. Is it irony, fate or fluke that Guy Fawkes Night falls just hours after the midterm election? Let’s go with none of the above.

Like many commemorations, Guy Fawkes Night has lost most of its political overtones. It has become a night for bonfires, fireworks and fun. Sounds a bit like the Fourth of July and a good excuse for a party; not a bad idea on a dreary November night. Call it an evening of rebellion; rebellion against a cold, cruel November.

Also known as Bonfire Night, the first thing you will need is towering pile of old wood. Oops, think again, a visit and fine from the fire department will probably ruin the your evening. It might be best to settle for cozy fire pit. Expect a chill in the air and encourage your guest to practice LL Bean chic with fleece and down. It is New Hampshire after all. Mull some cider and maybe add a shot of applejack or rum. If the weather is soggy, don’t hesitate to move the party indoors. A fireplace works fine for me.

Going with the theme of rebellion, invite everyone to share a personal story of insurgence, mutiny or foot stamping. The results will be anything but dull. I’m guessing there will be a few stories of college sit-ins. Depending on your group, there could be some more recent protests as well. Perhaps, you’ll get a play-by-play account of an almost-raging response to a telemarketer. Or another’s retort to the idiot who stole, yes stole, their parking space this morning. You know the feeling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And who knows, maybe one of your friends actually told the boss to take that job and shove it.

From the deadly serious to the mundane, the sublime to the ridiculous; it will be an enlightening evening. A trip down memory lane, you’ll hear about petitions, vigils and boycotts. More than history, you may learn some things that you never knew, never would have guessed about each other.

Perhaps one of your friends missed his chance to compete in the Olympics when the US refused to go to Moscow. You will find out who gave up any and everything from grapes to red meat, chicken, chocolate chips, Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts and Mickey Mouse. You might even get a firsthand account of the March on Washington or Occupy Wall Street.

Happy Guy Fawkes Night and bon appétit!

Moroccan Spiced Vegetables & Chickpeas with Couscous 
A dash of color and spice for a cold night, serve this flavorful stew as a vegetarian main course or as a side dish with chicken or lamb. Enjoy!
Serves 6 or more

Olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1-2 medium zucchinis, roughly chopped
1-2 cups crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup golden raisins
1-2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
12 ounces fresh mixed baby kale or spinach
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
Garnish: chopped cilantro or parsley

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and spices and sauté until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and sauté a minute or so more.

Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and stock and stir to combine. Bring the stew to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the zucchini and simmer for about 10 minutes more.

Stir in the kale and continue cooking until it wilts.

While the vegetables are simmering, cook the couscous according to package directions. Add the pine nuts and scallion, drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to combine.

To serve: spoon couscous into shallow bowls, top with vegetables and sprinkle with cilantro or parsley.

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Bonfire photograph via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Gwen and James Anderson, participants in the Geograph® Britain and Ireland project. Copyright © by Gwen and James Anderson.

One Year Ago – Smashed or Mashed Potatoes
Two Years Ago – Apple Muffins
Three Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash
Four Years Ago – Spinach Ricotta Pie
Five Years Ago – Seared Scallops with Lentils
Six Years Ago – Tomato, Olive & Feta Tart
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How do you cope with the gray days of November? What’s your strategy to keep smiling through the fog and drizzle? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

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