Saturday, February 13, 2010

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

It sounds like winter here right now. The house is almost silent; outside I hear the occasional tinkling of chimes as the wind blows, but there are few people outside, and the whole world seems still. Ian is napping; he and I went to another birthday party this morning, but this one was much saner than some of the previous weekends (they had ten children at Eyes of the Wild, where the children can see and touch the animals) ... so I'm not feeling like I need to sleep it off.

And dinner is making itself.

Well, not quite. The vegetable prep does take some time, but I've become a convert to the instrument of torture from my mother's generation, the crockpot. No longer does using a slow cooker mean cooking every last bit of moisture and flavor out of a perfectly good piece of brisket, or leaving a pot of salt and fat bubbling away all day so that you can heap it onto some rice at dinner time.

This stew is pretty healthy, and hearty, and you can substitute the vegetables for the ones you like best. It might not be as Moroccan then, but I'm sure no one will tell. I'm still nursing a cold, so I'm not going to the gym today (despite my recent descent into sugar overload ... too many snow days = too many cookies); I was thinking that maybe a bowl of this for dinner would balance out the baking frenzy.

I cook the spices and chop the vegetables the night before, refrigerate in the crock overnight, then start it in the morning. The boys like to eat it with couscous. It makes a lot, so be prepared to eat it for a few nights, or invite some friends over!

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 carrots (12 oz. total), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
2 1/2 cups diced peeled eggplant or sweet potato or butternut squash
2 1/2 cups sliced (1/2 in. thick) zucchini or green beans
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup diced onion (about 5 oz.)
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) stewed tomatoes
2 cans (15 oz.) garbanzos, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Pour olive oil into a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring often until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to scorch the garlic. Scrape the mixture into a slow-cooker (at least 5 qt.).

Add broth, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, onion, stewed tomatoes (with juices), garbanzos, currants, almonds, and salt, and stir to combine.

Cover slow-cooker and cook on high until vegetables are tender to bite and flavors are blended, 8 to 9 hours.

Ladle about 3 cups of the vegetable mixture into a blender. Holding lid down with a towel and taking care to avoid steam, whirl until smooth. (Or use a stick blender and just purée that puppy right in the crock.) Return purée to slow-cooker and stir to blend. Serve with couscous and (if you like) a dollop of yogurt.
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