Introducing: Turkish-Spiced Chocolate Couscous with Roasted Kolhrabi

It was indeed splendid to meet the unstumpable Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the radio talk show “The Splendid Table“. She was the main attraction at Vermont Public Radio‘s 2012 listeners picnic in Brattleboro, Vermont last weekend.  The cool weather did not deter hundreds of eager public radio listeners from gathering under the protection of a large tent to sample a wide variety of extraordinarily tasty Vermont-made foods (from numerous cheeses to popcorn and kimchi; elderberry cordial, old fashioned switchel and maple syrup vodka), listen to Lynne discuss food trends and play a few rounds of “Stump the Cook.”

After an engaging conversation with Vermont Edition’s host Jane Lindholm on hot topics such as the farm bill, the national school lunch program and the local food movement, Lynne was ready to take on ingredients from Vermont kitchens in her on-the-spot recipe creation game.  The second person to be selected from the audience, was (poor Lynne) my husband.  As regular listeners of her radio program, and gatherers of uncommon food stuffs, we were eager to try to stump her.

A frequent traveler for his work in world music, my husband often returns home with a food souvenir or two for the family to try.  As a result, we have two jars of vegemite from a trip to Australia several years back (both still in pristine condition) and an unlabeled sack of some sort of spice mix from Turkey that we needed recipe help with.  To complete the required list of five ingredients, we added the kohlrabis from a our farmshare box, a piece of Dutch cumin cheese and cacao nibs.  My father learned of the high nutritional value of real chocolate a while back, and purchased a five pound bag, only to discover that crushed raw cacao beans are extremely hard and bitter and that he did not much care for them. We were the lucky recipients of his investment.

Lynne asked if we also had olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, raisins, couscous, water and maybe some fresh cilantro, and suggested the following:

 Chop the kohlrabi into small cubes, and rub it with the   mysterious Turkish spice mix (which we later realized is most likely a harissa) and olive oil. Roast in the oven.

 Meanwhile, make a broth with water and a teaspoon of vegemite, in which to cook the couscous.

 Add raisins, cinnamon, black pepper and cacao nibs. I also added olive oil (fat miraculously removes the bitter and enhances the chocolate flavor of the cacao).

 Mix small cubes of cumin seed cheese into the warm couscous, top with the roasted kohlrabi and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.  I added a green salad to complete the meal and rang the dinner bell.

The sweet-savory couscous with crunchy cacao nibs and soft raisins was full of flavor and the clear winner around the dinner table. The roasted kohlrabi may have performed better had we been able to describe the ingredients of the spice mix better and in combination with additional root vegetables. All in all, kudos to Lynne Rossetto Kasper.  Another creative recipe from the unstumpable cook.  Thank you!

For a great read about the whole event, Lynne’s work and the other recipes she concocted that day, click through to Corin Hirsh’s article in Seven Days, and a special thanks for her interest and follow-up piece on our recipe taste test.

For more Splendid Table fun, enjoy podcasts via the website and listen on your local NPR station, and browse Lynne’s many books full of well-tested recipes.