Now you taste it, now you don't. That's what happens to the tagines that come with couscous at Café Livre in Culver City.
The seasonings change as often as executive chef Farid Zadi gets a new idea, usually every week. The other day the beef tagine was slightly sweet with apricots and included almonds. Next week, who knows? Other tagine choices are lamb, chicken and vegetable. Or you could ask for a meat and vegetable combo.
Open only a couple of months, Café Livre is spiffing up with changes. One of the best is
putting couscous and tagines on the daily menu.
You get the tagine in one bowl, the couscous grains in another and combine them as you eat, squirting in super spicy red or green harissa. The brand new green harissa is like Mexican salsa verde and Indian green chutney combined, but with its own unique flavor. Olive oil, lemon and North African spices make the difference.
Director of operations Susan Park developed the green harissa. The traditional red harissa is Zadi's recipe. They've also come out with a habanero harissa and are working on a harissa barbecue sauce.
The couscous is cooked from scratch, steamed three times so that the grains absorb the water gradually and become fluffy–a big difference from your everyday instant couscous from the supermarket.
Zadi is Algerian (born in Lyons, France) and so knows his way around this sort of food, as well as French cuisine, which is mainly what Cafe Livre serves. The boxes of cookbooks for browsing while you eat include, not surprisingly, one on Algerian cuisine. But Zadi calls his cooking North African. “I don't discriminate any more,” he says.
If you want to learn how to make couscous and tagines, Zadi will teach you at a class Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. at the restaurant ($130). And you can buy a tagine there, not like those you get at cookware stores but made to Zadi's specifications so that it has a deeper base and can hold more sauce. It's also inscribed with his logo.
Read more from Barbara Hansen at www.EatMx.com, www.TableConversation.com, @food and wine gal and Facebook.