Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Food

With the return of chill 70 degree weather, thoughts turn to Autumn, already half over, and the tastes of seasonal food - warm, comforting, hearty.

This is a favorite in our household - a surprisingly complex-flavored dish that even more surprisingly healthy, easy, and vegetarian.  We omit the preserved lemon and olives.  We've also never bothered with the yogurt. But the toasted almonds and cilantro are absolutely essential.  Even if you're a cilantro-hater, you might give this a try anyway - the fresh herb adds a necessary up-note, fresh and sharp, to the warm, earthy tones of the squash and cumin.
Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew

Serves 6 to 8
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound butternut squash, large dice
3/4 pound red potatoes, large dice
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 cup brined green olives (Aida recommended Cerignola)
Steamed couscous, for serving (directions here and elsewhere on the web)
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish
Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish
Plain yogurt, for garnish
Hot sauce of your choice (for serving)

Heat butter and olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add squash and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juices, and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon and olives. Serve over couscous garnished with cilantro, almonds, and yogurt.
I'm pretty sure butternut squash would be a great baby food as well - so maybe reserve a few chunks and steam or boil on the side. You know, if your kid actually eats solid foods. Ours probably will by preschool. If not, we'll save a lot on the college meal plan later. Assuming we can find a dairy delivery service convenient to her college of choice.*

*choice! hahahahaha. ha. sigh. funny.

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