Several traditions combine to make this tsimmes dish perfect for Shavuot. But its naturally sweet taste, hearty combination of Israeli couscous and chickpeas and tangy garnish make this stew a versatile main course (or side dish) year-round.
The concept behind the recipe comes from the Ashkenazi custom of eating dried fruits to celebrate Shavuot, which begins at sundown on May 16 and ends two evenings later. There was even a special Eastern European tsimmes served during the holiday that featured prunes and farfel (a pasta made by cutting dough into small pieces).
I’ve replaced the farfel with Israeli couscous (a small, ball-shaped pasta also labeled toasted pearl couscous). Called ptitim in Hebrew, it was created during the 1950s as a replacement for rice during Israel’s years of food austerity. Since Shavuot also marks the ancient wheat harvest, adding the pasta to the tsimmes reflects the holiday’s roots.
The garnish of yogurt and honey adds another traditional Shavuot food element: dairy and honey. Substitute nondairy yogurt and silan to keep the dish vegan.
Dried Fruit Tsimmes with Chickpeas and Israeli Couscous
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a side dish
- ½ cup pitted prunes, roughly chopped
- ½ cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
- ½ cup raisins
- 3 Tbs. olive oil, divided, plus more if needed
- 1 cup chopped red onions
- 1 cup thinly sliced carrot rounds
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. salt plus more if needed
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper, plus more if needed
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1½ cups Israeli couscous
- 15½-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups vegetable broth, plus more if needed
- 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (see notes)
- 2 Tbs. honey, or silan (date syrup)
- 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
- 3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley or mint
Place the prunes, apricots and raisins in a deep, heat-proof bowl. Cover with boiling water. Let sit for 20 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Drain, reserving liquid.
Heat 2 Tbs. oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions 10 to 12 minutes until very soft and browned. Stir in carrots and sauté until beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, salt, pepper and cayenne. Add remaining 1 Tbs. oil and stir in the couscous, stirring until coated with oil, adding more oil if needed. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes until the couscous is beginning to turn golden.
Stir in 2 cups of the reserved soaking liquid and 2 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer. Stir in dried fruit and chickpeas. Return to a simmer. Cover pan. Adjust heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir and add an additional ¼ cup of soaking liquid or broth if pan seems dry. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir and add ¼ cup liquid or broth if needed. Cook for another 5 minutes. Try couscous. It should be tender, not crunchy or mushy. If the couscous isn’t ready, cook another 5 minutes or as needed. If the sauce is loose or soupy instead of syrupy, cook with cover off until evaporated. If the pan is dry, add ¼ cup liquid or broth and stir well. (If you run out of soaking liquid or broth, use water.)
Once the couscous is cooked, remove pan from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Taste. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice if needed. Serve hot or room temperature. To garnish, top each serving with yogurt, drizzled honey, lemon zest and parsley.
Notes: Use either nondairy or dairy yogurt, or use this recipe for tahini sauce.