Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron

Couscous with veal, cauliflower and peppers
Couscous with veal, cauliflower, red peppers and saffron

Sicily has been on my mind.

I recalled a remarkable day on the northern coast where I learned of 2 new ingredients for my Italian-American cooking, couscous and saffron.

We spent a delightful day in San Vito lo Capo lounging on the soft pink beach, swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea with Tunisia on the horizon and exploring the annual couscous festival in the small town that hugs the coast.

As the sun began to set we headed back to our hotel in the hills overlooking Palermo. We stopped in a tavola calda in Monreale for a quick meal.

I asked the owner Filippo if he could grill swordfish for me simply seasoned with olive oil, oregano and lemon. It was one of his favorites and he was happy to make it for me.

We talked as he brushed the fresh swordfish steak with oregano-infused olive oil, laid it on the hot iron grate over the open fire and sprinkled it with sea salt. It was on the plate in a jiffy with wedges of lemon. Simply delicious.

On the way out we thanked Filippo for the wonderful meal. He went to the counter and came back with “Zafferano: Giallo il Colore della Felicita” (Yellow: The Color of Happiness), a booklet with dozens of Sicilian recipes made with saffron. He autographed it as a gift for me.

This is one of those recipes and the dish includes saffron and couscous, 2 ingredients that I added to my Italian-American pantry after that wonderful day in Sicily. It can be on your table in about 45 minutes.

The saffron bathes everything in a golden hue. The crusted veal is tender and moist, the vegetables soft and sweet and the nutty couscous absorbs the flavors of it all. Another delicious Italian dish influenced by North African cooking.

Buon appetito!

Couscous with Veal, Cauliflower, Red Peppers & Saffron
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Veal with cauliflower, red bell pepper and saffron served over couscous.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound veal, cubed
  • 1 onion
  • ½ cauliflower
  • 2 tomatoes cut into 2 inch pieces or 12 small cherry or pear tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 carrot, cut in ½ inch slices
  • 1 red pepper, cored and seeded, cut 2-inch strips and then in 2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup couscous
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • pinch of saffron (the dish is almost as good without saffron)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a enamel or heavy-bottomed pot put 1 tablespoon of olive oil and melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the veal and brown all over.
  3. Add the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste and cook until the vegetables begin to brown.
  4. Pour the white wine, scrape the bottom of the pot and cook until the wine is evaporated.
  5. Continue cooking until the vegetables are knife tender, about 20 minutes. Add some vegetable broth or water if the pot is too dry.
  6. Add the saffron and gently mix all the ingredients well. Reduce the heat to low to keep the stew warm.
  7. Meanwhile, pour the couscous in a bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  8. Put the vegetable broth in a pot and bring it to a boil.
  9. Pour in the couscous, stirring gently.
  10. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the couscous rest for 2 minutes.
  11. Add the remaining butter, stir and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring the couscous with a fork.
  12. Remove from heat, cover the pan and let cool for about 8 minutes.
  13. Place the couscous on a platter and top with the veal stew.
  14. Serve immediately.


Menu: Il Pranzo

Il Pranzo

Il Pranzo

This is the menu for a recent lunch I prepared for about a dozen work colleagues, evenly divided between Bay Area and NYC residents.

I wanted this meal to feature the best of slow food in the Bay Area for our NY guests, so I served Fra’Mani salami made in Oakland and used only organic farmer’s market produce. Italian prune plums had just arrived in the farmer’s market near my office and the strawberries were just about done for the summer season so I had to use them both.

I rounded all of that out with the best of imported Italian products that I could find in Gianni’s North Beach and at A.G. Ferrari near my office too. I wanted to include a Jewish dish and chose the stuffed artichokes in the style of the Roman Jewish ghetto. Besides my mother’s lasagna, the lasagna al forno con balsamella is the one that my family and friends most often ask me to make for them so I had to include it in this menu.

Check out the wines. They either mirror or contrast the major flavors in each course. Let me know if you want me to show you how to make these dishes or want me to post some of the recipes.


  • Carciofi alla Romano. Artichokes with a breadcrumb, minced mint, parsley, garlic, and anchovy stuffing poached in EVO and water. (The star of the course. All the rest of the stuff could be eaten after the last bite of the artichoke went into your mouth.)
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Fra’ Mani Toscano Salami (locally produced)
  • Boschetto al Tartufo. Cow and sheep milk semi-soft cheese with white truffle from Toscano.
  • Robiola Bosino. Cow and sheep milk soft cheese from Piemonte.
  • Cipolline en agrodolce. Flat caramelized Italian onions in a balsamic and chestnut honey sauce.
  • Olive Calabrese. Olives, roasted red peppers, garlic cloves, Calabrese chili in an EVO marinade.
  • Focaccia. Homemade, topped with EVO, sea salt, dried Sicilian oregano. A Neapolitan favorite.
  • Vino: Alice Ose vino spumante. A sparkling rose from the Prosecco region of the Veneto that pairs well with this broad array of fairly bold flavors.


  • Lasagna al forno con balsamella. Layers of homemade pasta, Bolognese meat sauce, grated parmigiano and fresh mozzarella, and bechamel.
  • Insalata mista. Baby field greens, edible flowers dressed with “La Mola” extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamico and fiore di sale (the very top crust of sea salt beds).
  • Vino: Badio e Colibuono Chianti Classico 2006. Had to go with a Tuscan to stand up to the lasagna and this is a great bottle. Not as good as the 05, but a very close runner-up.


  • Crostata di prugne con crema. Free form tart with fresh Italian prune plums with a dollop of whipped cream on the side of each slice.
  • Liquore di fragole. A homemade strawberry liqueur. Had to make this with the last of the summer’s small, dark red strawberries. In Italy, this liqueur will keep the strawberries in your heart until the first harvest next spring.

Sparkling and still Italian mineral waters.