16 January 2008

Spicy Winter Stew

Confidence is not always my strong suit, but when it comes to cooking I consider myself (relatively) fearless. Roast a chicken? No problem. Dinner for 20? Can do. As long as I have a recipe to generally keep myself on track, I'm ready to tackle most anything in the kitchen. Lately, however, I have realized that I generally stick to my comfort zone when it comes to flavors--Italian or Mexican spices, usually. Several attempts at Asian-style dishes have flopped, not to mention a couple of nose-drippingly hot but otherwise flavorless curries. Not to be deterred, I've decided 2008 will be a year to branch out in the kitchen, a chance to explore beyond the basil and garlic. The recipe that follows, a Moroccan-inspired vegetable stew, is, I think, a great way to kick it off.
This recipe was written as a slow-cooker meal, but I made it on the stove top with good results. I'll include instructions for both below. I served it with brown rice with lemon juice, lemon zest, chopped toasted almonds and parsley.
Also, though it's a great vegetarian dish, meat-o-philes might want to explore adding lamb or serving it on the side. I also think it would be a good side for some kind of simply prepared firm, white fish. If you like thinks really spicy, try adding a tiny bit more of the dried spices than the recipe calls for.

Spicetastic Moroccan Stew

(inspired by Susan Sugarman), serves 6

2 tbs. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 cups veg. or chicken broth
2.5 cups cauliflower florets (about 1/2 large head)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds
2 cups cubed winter squash (kabocha or butternut are great, acorn would be ok too)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 14.5 oz can diced or stewed tomatoes (I used a bigger can with fine results)
1 can garbanzos, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup dried currants or raisins

Slow-Cooker Prep:
Heat olive oil in a frying pan over med/low heat. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring, until fragrant (1-2 minutes only, don't burn). Scrape into a slow cooker, add all other ingredients and cook on high until vegetables are tender, 8 to 9 hours.
Stove-top Prep:
Like all soupy things, I think this dish tastes best if given time for the flavors to meld. Make it in the morning or early afternoon if you're going to serve it for dinner.
Get out your heaviest soup pot (I used by cast iron dutch oven)--the whole dish will be cooked in this one pot. Cook garlic and spices as above, then add onion and cook a few minutes more. Add all the rest of the ingredients and simmer, covered over lowish heat for about an hour. Turn off the heat and let it sit until about an hour before you want to serve it, then fire up the heat again (low). Taste, and serve!

1 comment:

laurel said...

This looks so good! I too need to branch out with spices a bit more. I did make a fabulous green curry coconut soup the other day which was nose-dripping but also delicious... Maybe I'll post that soon. Anyway, I'm definitely going to try your spicy winter stew, the weather here is screaming for something like it.