On the menu: Moroccan Vegetable Stew
Friends! I bring you the great news that I have emerged victorious on my epic quest to earn my Master’s degree. This morning I successfully defended my thesis, and although my brain is mostly mush, I had to return to my little home on the World Wide Web to thank my food blogging friends Shannon and Emma for the tasty treats they made to get me through the day. I also whipped up a few things for my colleagues: Martha’s Blueberry Slab Pie, Saveur’s Orange Olive Oil Cake, and Joy’s Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies. Out of all that food, I had exactly one cookie, one slice of cake, and one piece of pie. Everything else was gobbled up by hungry graduate students. Thank goodness for that!
I also have a recipe to share with you today. You see, there are some weeks where I manage to have my life in order enough to plan out our meals. As I was preparing for my defense, I tried to keep up on meal planning to prevent any early evening meltdowns because we didn’t have anything for dinner. Perhaps you’ve picked up on the fact that I’m kind of high strung and anal-retentive; I like to have as many aspects of my life planned out as possible. Don’t get me started on the mess that was earning my Master’s degree. Anyway, there was one week where I needed one more dinner, but I couldn’t think of anything to try. So, in an effort to increase my spontaneity (really, I am trying to be more easygoing), I took out our copy of the Joy of Cooking and let the book open to a random page. Lucky for us, a recipe for Moroccan-style Vegetable Stew presented itself. Meatless and full of spices, it was instantly added to that week’s dinner plans.
The dish takes a bit of time to make, but there’s a lot of sitting and simmering involved. Onions simmer into submission, becoming tender and subtly sweet. They don’t caramelize; that flavor would overwhelm the rest of the stew. Next, root vegetables and a host of spices are added to simmer and soften. Finally, more fragile ingredients such as zucchini, chickpeas, and olives are added for a few minutes to soak up some of the well-developed flavors. There’s something synergistic about this stew–the hour-long cooking time really elevates all of the ingredients into a deliciously cohesive whole.
Served over couscous and garnished with cilantro, hot sauce, and preserved lemon (finally! a use for these guys), this is a robust meal. The stew is sweet and slightly smoky, with punches of brightness brought by the olives, cilantro, and preserved lemon. It’s very texturally pleasing–the bites of squash, potatoes, and carrots have just enough give to avoid mushiness, and they partner well with the chewy currants and crunchy olives. Kevin is still raving about this dish two weeks later. It’s definitely a keeper. Spontaneity may not be such a bad thing, after all.
Moroccan Vegetable Stew
adapted from the Joy of Cooking
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 small butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 in cubes
1 large russet potato, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/4 in slices
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 in slices
1/3 cup currants
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/3 in slices
one 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup sliced green olives
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
cooked couscous, for serving
chopped parsley or cilantro
hot pepper sauce (harissa)
Melt butter in a large pot, like a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened, then stir in vegetable stock and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 20 minutes, until the onions are very tender. Meanwhile, mix spices with chopped squash and sliced potatoes. Add squash mixture, carrots, currants, and garlic to the onions, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes, until vegetables are completely tender. Finally, add zucchini, chickpeas, and olives. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes, then season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve over cooked couscous and garnish with cilantro, hot sauce, and preserved lemons.