In his Bellmore grocery called Tavlin, Marc Azoulay sells specialties from virtually every European, Middle Eastern and African country that borders the Mediterranean. But for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins at sundown on Sept. 13, he focuses on the French-Moroccan food that he grew up with in Lyon, France.

When family and friends gather at his Merrick home, they will be served a steaming platter of couscous topped with a mosaic of vegetables rendered tender and fragrant during their long simmer in a broth flavored with turmeric, nutmeg, cilantro and bay leaves. Among the dozen or so accompaniments will be a spinach dip so intense it's almost black, roast peppers cooked down into a silky jam, a salad of oranges and avocados whose vibrant colors inspired Azoulay to name it after the painter Paul Gauguin. Azoulay and his wife (and business partner), Sarah, have been vegetarians for decades, but guests to their house never seem to miss the meat.

The Morrocan-born Azoulay landed on the South Shore after a childhood in France, a stint in Israel, where he served in the army and, on a kibbutz, met his future wife. They moved to the United States to marry and settled on Long Island, where Sarah grew up. In 1990 they opened Tavlin on Merrick Road in Bellmore.

Sarah's parents will come over for the holiday meal; Azoulay's parents, both dead, will be a palpable presence since it is their recipes that form the basis of his cooking. "My mother did not know her own mother," he recalled. "When she married my father, she moved into his family's house and learned to cook from his mother and sisters."

One family Rosh Hashanah tradition that Azoulay tries to observe is that of the new fruit. "It's a bracha -- a blessing -- to serve a new fruit that you did not eat all year long," he said. "But in America it gets harder all the time because we have almost every fruit all year long." This year he will try to get his hands on a quince to make a compote with ginger. "But if I can't find one I'll have to make do with some fresh figs and pomegranate."


VEGETABLE COUSCOUS

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Couscous, a staple of the North African kitchen, looks like a grain but is actually a tiny pellet of pasta made from semolina wheat. The vegetables in this festive version can be varied according to preference and season.

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, cut into eighths

6 plum tomatoes, quartered

1 cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight

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1½ tablespoon kosher salt (or 3 teaspoons table salt), divided

2 teaspoons turmeric, divided

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon harissa (North African spicy pepper sauce, available at specialty markets)

3 to 4 bay leaves

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1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems trimmed

1 large cabbage, halved through the core

1 turnip, peeled and halved

1 butternut squash, halved through the stem

3 to 4 slim zucchini, peeled lengthwise in alternating 1-inch strips into "stripes"

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5 to 6 small carrots, peeled (or 2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks)

1 pound frozen fava beans (optional)

4 cups instant couscous

Pomegranate seeds, optional, for garnish

1. Heat oil in heavy, lidded Dutch oven large enough to hold all the vegetables. Add onion and tomatoes and saute over medium heat until the onion is translucent and just starting to color, about 10 minutes.

2. Drain and rinse chickpeas and add to pot with 1 tablespoon kosher (or 2 teaspoons table) salt, 1 teaspoon turmeric, the nutmeg, harissa, bay leaves and the whole bunch of cilantro. Mix well, place halved cabbage and turnip on top and cover with 3 inches of water. Cook at a swift simmer until the cabbage is tender and easily pierced by a knife. Remove cabbage and turnip and set aside.

3. Add squash, zucchini, carrots and fava beans to pot and continue cooking until vegetables are tender but still somewhat firm, 20 to 30 minutes. As vegetables are done, remove them from the pot.

4. While vegetables are cooking, place couscous in large, heatproof bowl with remaining salt and turmeric. Bring 4 cups of water to boil, then pour over couscous. Stir constantly with a fork for a few minutes until water is well absorbed. Stir constantly so that couscous does not clump. Cover bowl to keep it warm.

5. To serve: Add vegetables back to pot to warm and moisten them. Spoon couscous in a large serving platter. Cut cabbage and turnip into slices and place on couscous. Remove peel from squash, cut into slices and place on couscous. Cut zucchini and carrots in half; place on couscous. (If you have too many vegetables, serve the extras in a separate bowl.) Cover all the vegetables with a few spoonfuls of broth in the pot to moisten them well.

6. Finally, dig into the bottom of the pot, where the chickpeas and fava beans will have settled and, with a slotted spoon, remove them and scatter some of them on the couscous. Garnish with optional pomegranate seeds. Transfer the rest of the broth and the chickpeas and favas to another bowl to serve separately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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MOROCCAN SPINACH 'CAVIAR'

Marc Azoulay likens this dish to caviar because of its rich, near-black appearance and concentrated flavor.

2 pounds fresh spinach

1/4 to 1/2 vegetable oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic

1. Put spinach in a large pot and add 2 inches of water. Bring water to boil over high heat and cook until spinach is wilted and tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as you can.

2. Film the bottom of a large skillet with oil. Add remaining ingredients and saute over medium, stirring constantly, until mixture is fragrant and garlic has just started to color. Do not let it brown. Add spinach and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until spinach is dark and dry, 20 to 30 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 small servings.

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GAUGUIN SALAD

Marc Azoulay named this salad for one of his favorite artists because the color reminds him of Paul Gauguin's Tahitian paintings.

2 large, firm tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (see note)

2 to 3 celery stalks, diced

2 ripe avocados, cubed

2 navel oranges peeled, pith removed, and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients and mix gently. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: To peel and seed tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Make a shallow "x" in the bottom of each tomato and poach in boiling water for a minute. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, slip off skins. Cut tomatoes in half across their equators, scoop out seeds, then cut into small cubes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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ROASTED PEPPER SALAD

Marc Azoulay uses this intense, jam-like dish as an accent for other dishes, or as a spread on a baguette. "It freezes so well," he said, "you could prepare it on Memorial Day and have it for Rosh Hashanah."

4 red peppers

4 green peppers

10 very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (optional, see note)

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 tablespoon salt

1 pinch cayenne pepper

1. Roast the peppers over a hot grill or on a baking sheet, in 450-degree oven, turning occasionally, until they are charred on all sides. Transfer them to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off skins, then cut peppers in half lengthwise through stem end and discard seeds and membranes. Cut into 1/2-inch strips.

2. Film a large skillet with oil, add garlic, paprika, salt and cayenne. Add tomatoes and peppers, cook on medium heat, covered and stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick, jam-like consistency, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: To peel and seed tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Make a shallow "x" in the bottom of each tomato and poach in boiling water for a minute. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, slip off skins. Cut tomatoes in half across their equators, scoop out seeds, then cut into small cubes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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MOROCCAN EGGPLANT

The slim eggplants from Holland, China or Japan are ideal for this dish, but you can also use the standard, large bulb-shaped American eggplant.

4 long, slim eggplants or 1 large eggplant

Olive or vegetable oil for frying

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoons minced garlic

Salt

Pepper

1. Cut eggplants horizontally into 1/2-inch slices. (If eggplant is large, cut slices into halves or quarters.) In a heavy, deep pot, pour enough olive oil to come up 1/2 inch. Turn heat to high and add as many eggplant slices as will fit comfortably without crowding. Lower heat to medium-high and fry eggplant until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining eggplant.

2. Combine vinegar and oil in a bowl with parsley, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Add eggplant slices and toss so they are covered with dressing. Lift eggplant out onto a serving platter or bowl, leaving remaining dressing in bowl. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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SPICY CARROT SALAD

Make this carrot salad as spicy as you'd like by varying the amount of cayenne pepper.

2 bunches carrots

Salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 pinch cayenne pepper or to taste

1 tablespoon sweet red paprika

1/3 cup finely chopped parsley

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

1. Peel carrots and slice 1/4-inch thick.

2. Boil until tender in salted water, about 10 minutes.

3. Combine lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Drain carrots and add to bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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MARBLE HALVAH COOKIES

Marc Azoulay prefers cookies to cake. With their sesame-paste-rich crumbly texture, these cookies are reminiscent of halvah.

3 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 stick) butter, cut into pieces

1 cup sesame paste

1/4 teaspoon (1 packet) vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In the work bowl of a mixer or with a wooden spoon, combine all ingredients except the cocoa to make a smooth dough. Split dough in half, and into one half, mix in cocoa until well integrated.

2. Using half plain and half chocolate dough, form small (ping-pong-sized) balls. Don't worry about "marbleizing" them; that will happen while the cookies bake. Place on baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes. They should not color. Do not touch cookies for at least 10 minutes after removing from oven or they will crumble. Makes 30 to 40 cookies.