2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced (optional)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground
Salt, preferably kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, to taste
2 tablespoons harissa, plus additional for serving
3 quarts fish stock, chicken stock, or water
3/4 pound carrots, cut in thick slices (fat ends first cut in half lengthwise)
1/2 pound turnips, peeled and cut in wedges or large dice
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, or 1/2 cup of each
2 2/3 cups couscous, preferably whole wheat couscous
2 pounds fish fillets (such as snapper, halibut, grouper, cod or monkfish) cut into 2-inch pieces
1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven and add the onion and leeks. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes, and stir in the garlic, ground cumin seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook together, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute, and add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture smells very fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in the dissolved tomato paste, the cayenne, harissa, the broth or water, carrots, turnips, chick peas, and salt to taste, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Strain off 1 cup of the stock.
2. Reconstitute and steam the couscous.
3. Season the fish with salt and pepper and add along with the parsley and/or cilantro to the simmering stew. Simmer very gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until the fish is opaque and flakes when poked with a fork. Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Transfer the couscous to a wide serving bowl, such as a pasta bowl, or directly to wide soup plates. Top the couscous with fish, vegetables, and plenty of broth, and serve, passing harissa at the table.
Yield: Serves six to eight
Advance preparation: The stew can be made through step 1 a day ahead of time. Bring back to a simmer, and proceed with the recipe. The couscous can be reconstituted up to a day ahead, then steamed before serving.