Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Spicing it up

Over the past few weeks, we've had a major weather event almost every day here in Chicago - from sub-zero temps to 50 degrees and back again to crazy wind, a thunderstorm that turned into sleet and snow, to blizzard conditions. My office, along with many others in and around the city, even closed early today.

It has reached that depressing point in winter where we've been through a lot but there is so much more to go.

That's sort of how I feel about those potatoes in my cupboard. I've been through so many of them but there are so many more still left.

Okay, I promised myself no more posts about potatoes.

But it raises a reality of subscribing to a CSA. You get what you get. It's winter, so I got a lot of root vegetables. I have to admit that it got a little old after awhile. The more stews and soups that I made with the same ingredients, the less interested I got. Unfortunately my list of rotting food is a little longer than usual this month.

A few weeks ago I took a cooking class with my boyfriend. We made some great dishes, including a moroccan chickpea stew over quinoa. What I liked about it is that the recipe calls for some items from my CSA (carrots and onions) but also for spices that I don't typically use, like cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne.

After the class I paid a visit to The Spice House, a local store that sells spices from all over the world in bulk. This place is great. You can smell and taste any spice, and buy amounts as small as a 1-ounce sample, if you want to try one out without commiting to a whole jar. It's an inexpensive way to experiment with different flavors (thanks, Klein, for the suggestion!).

I made the stew tonight. It's hard to tell in the photo, but it's resting on a delicious mound of quinoa, which just might be the new couscous for me. The colors and the new flavors even helped lift me out of the winter doldrums.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew [from Rice and Spice by Robin Robertson]

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 zucchini, diced (I subbed broccoli, which soaked up the flavor really well)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock or water
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup raisins
Zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed if canned
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro or parsley
6 cups hot cooked couscous or rice (or quinoa)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion and carrot and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the zucchini, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, salt, cayenne, tomatoes, stock or water, and salt to taste. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the apricots in hot water for 20 minutes, then drain and finely chop. Add the apricots, raisins, lemon zest, and chickpeas to the vegetable mixture and cook 5 minutes longer, or until hot and the flavors are blended. Stir in the cilantro or parsley and serve over couscous or rice (or quinoa).

Serves 4-6.


GourmetGoddess said...

Ugh, I am so tired of this weather. I feel like Frodo in The Return of the King. I am not certain i can make it to the top of Mt. Doom.

Your stew looks really good. I have not cooked with quinoa in a long time, ever since the last time when I forgot to rinse it before use and got a weird soapy dish that I threw out immediately.

I went this weekend and picked up my half of a heritage pig from the butcher. For us carnivores, it is an excellent way to support family farms, get some inexpensive protein, and protect animals breeds that are rapidly disappearing because they are not efficient enough for factory farms.

I made one of my favorite winter insanity dishes - pork baked in sauerkraut with mashed potatoes. Heavy, but comforting.

Lindsay said...

I am loving the quinoa. I especially like to say it (keen-wahhhhhh).

It's interesting to learn about all the different ways to buy food that don't involve a trip to the grocery store.


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