Moroccan Stew with Butternut Squash and Chickpeas

Despite never having been to Morocco (something I hope to remedy soon!), I love Moroccan food. This stew is warming and hearty on a cold winter day.  Funnily enough, yesterday’s New York Times just featured a similar stew as well, so apparently, I’m not the only one who craves Moroccan food on a cold day.

This vegan stew is wonderful when you want to enjoy complex flavors—but also need something  quick and easy to prepare – my cooking mantra! Often I find that recipes for Moroccan food—at least the ones I have found online—overdo the sweetness, which comes from cinnamon, and often apricots and/or raisins as well, while foregoing other spices.  I prefer the stew to be more balanced, with the sweetness from the cinnamon and apricots balanced against the spicy harissa and red chillies.  However, since this is a one-pot meal, which simmers for a while, only gaining in flavor as it does, feel free to adjust to your own tastes. I love this served with some couscous or quinoa, but it is also perfectly good with any other grains or rice.

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To cook couscous: take 1 cup of couscous (serves 2) and pour 2 cups of boiling water over it. Cover and leave for 15 minutes. Fluff the grains with a fork and serve.

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Prep. time: 40 minutes

Serves: 2 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic

1″ knob ginger

1 stick cinnamon

2 cardamom pods

4 cloves

1-2 dried red chillies

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. harissa

1 tbsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp. turmeric powder

6 dried apricots, chopped

3 cups warm water

1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans or half a cup of dried chickpeas soaked overnight (with draining liquid)

16 oz. butternut squash

1/2 preserved lemon (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful coriander leaves for garnish

  1. Heat olive oil in a deep pan on medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is hot, add the dried red chilli, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom pods.
  3. Once you can smell the aroma of the spices, add the onion and garlic along with a pinch of salt.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, until the onions have softened.  If the pot gets too dry, add a sprinkling of water.
  4. Add the spices: the cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, and harissa.  Saute for another minute, making sure that the spices do not burn (again, add a bit of water if necessary).
  5. Add three cups of warm water and bring to a gentle simmer.
  6. Add the squash and let simmer until cooked, about 15 minutes.  Grate your knob of ginger directly into the pot.
  7. Once the squash is cooked, add your chickpeas and the draining liquid into the pot.  Add the apricots. 
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Adjust spices if necessary.
  9. Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Add your preserved lemon, if you like.
  10. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve.

Avocado, orange, and radish salad with poppy seed dressing

Its been too long.  Despite having pretty good reasons for the hiatus (job applications and interviews and whatnot), believe me, I’ve seriously missed having the time to write out recipes, cook, photograph, and leisurely eat said goods. These last few weeks, I’ve haven’t had much energy to cook, except to throw some lentils into the pressure cooker for a quick dal.

To make up for all that, today I did double duty and cooked all afternoon. It was so good to take a day off and be completely unproductive and selfish.  This salad is perfect for when you need a palate cleanser after a weekend of hedonism (what’s that?) or just a simple but nourishing appetizer or light lunch.  This salad is crisp, fresh, and what is crucial in my book for a good salad: it keeps you interested because every bite is a bit different.  On another note, I was watching a hilarious Portlandia skit in which Fred Armisen’s character develops an addiction to pasta, which they analogize to a drug or alcohol addiction.  In an interview, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein described how the inspiration of the skit was the thought that on our deathbeds, none of us is likely to say that we’re so glad we ate so many salads.  Anyway, this salad is one of those that you won’t regret so much.

PS–If you want to make the dressing vegetarian or vegan, just omit the egg.

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Fruity bedfellows
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Is there anything more satisfying than cutting open a ripe avocado and scraping that creamy goodness out with a spoon?

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Serves: 2

Prep time: 15 minutes

1 ripe avocado

1 orange, peeled and segmented

2 red radishes, sliced

1 bunch rocket or arugula leaves

For the dressing:

1 egg

1 tsp. poppy seeds

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 glug of olive or rapeseed oil

2 tsp. sugar

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

  1. Peel and segment the orange.
  2. Slice the avocado and arrange it and the orange over a bed of rocket or arugula leaves.
  3. Slice the radishes and arrange them on your bed of greens.
  4. Blend together the ingredients for the dressing: the poppy seeds, red wine vinegar, onion, egg, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour over the salad and serve.