Sunday, April 26, 2020

Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potato & Chickpea Stew

This time of year my pantry is usually beginning to fill with spring onions, radishes, young root vegetables, asparagus and young tender greens (chard, kale, spinach…).  It goes without saying that this year is different.  Because I’m pre-ordering from the farmers’ market I don’t have the abundance of local spring ingredients I usually do.  Pre-ordering limits my impulse shopping (a good thing for my wallet…but not so great for the growers…).  Furthermore, I don’t need that much—I’m still cooking a lot from my shelf-stable pantry.  (I’m almost to the bottom of the big bag of onions I bought in March just before the lockdowns started.)

So a couple of days ago when I had to make some flatbread for dinner (I had made some dough with my new starter and its refrigerated shelf life seemed to be nearing an end), a Moroccan spiced chickpea stew is what popped into my head (doesn’t everyone have several cans of chickpeas in their isolation pantries?).  I also had some Swiss chard (from the farmers’ market!) that really needed to be used…and a few sweet potatoes.  All of this sounded like a promising combination.  

As it turns out, this is not an unusual combination.  There are lots of Moroccan- and Indian-spiced stews floating around the blogosphere that include this combination of vegetables.  I’m not really adding a whole lot new to the conversation by posting this.  I’m mostly sharing it because the dish I came up with was delicious and I want to make it again.

My stew is different from many that I saw in one way:  Most of the stews I saw had a lot of tomato.  Mine does not.  I have big cans of tomatoes that I could have used, but I didn’t want a stew that felt like it was all about the tomatoes.  Canned tomatoes (especially when packed in puree) can be very assertive.  Sometimes I feel like recipes call for a whole can just because it was convenient to use the whole can…not because the food needed it.  For my stew I just wanted the tomato to be a background flavor—something that served to thicken…and add a little acidity.  I routinely freeze canned Italian plum tomatoes in quarter can/200 gram portions…just so I can use exactly the amount I want (and no more).  A cup of tomatoes added exactly the elements I was looking for…without making me feel like I was eating a bowl of tomato sauce.

When I started making the stew I decided to roast the sweet potatoes before adding them.  This ends up saving time (the sweet potatoes roast while you cook the onions), but that’s not the reason I chose to do it that way.  Sweet potatoes have a tendency to fall apart when cooked in liquid.  The roasting process seals the exterior (which helps them hold their shape).  Because they are fully cooked they can be added to the liquid right before serving (giving them no time to absorb liquid and disintegrate in the simmering broth).  On subsequent days, as I ate the leftovers, some of the sweet potatoes began to fall apart…but for leftovers, this is not the end of the world.  And the stew still tastes delicious.

I served the stew the first night with the aforementioned flatbreads, a spoonful of thick yogurt and a favorite cinnamon-scented couscous with golden raisins.  It was delicious.  On subsequent days (when I was eating it for lunch) I simply crumbled some salty Feta over the stew.  This too was delicious.   Since the weather is warming up…and my storage pantry is dwindling…this stew might not appear on my table again for a while.  But I will be certain to put it into regular rotation when the weather begins to cool off again in the fall.

Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potato & Chickpea Stew

1 t. paprika
3/4 t. cumin
3/4 t. coriander
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. turmeric
1/4 t. cinnamon
Pinch cayenne (or more to taste)
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into generous 1/2-inch thick slices
Olive oil
1 small onion (5 to 6 oz.), minced
2 fat cloves garlic, sliced
A scant cup (1/4 of a can/200g.) canned Italian Plum Tomatoes, crushed with your hands
2 c. chicken stock (or vegetable stock would be fine too)
1 15.5-oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves cut crosswise in rough 1-inch ribbons and rinsed in several changes of water
Roughly chopped fresh Italian Parsley or Cilantro
Thick yogurt, Labneh, or crumbled Feta
Warm flatbreads (optional)
Couscous (optional)

Combine the spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Toss the sweet potatoes with just enough olive oil to coat.  Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and a heaped teaspoon of the spice mixture and toss to coat.  Spread the sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a 400° oven.  Roast the sweet potatoes, turning them over with a pancake turner once about 2/3 way through the cooking, until they are tender and golden—about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a shallow, wide sauce pan set over moderate heat.  Add the onions along with a pinch of salt and cook until tender and just beginning to turn golden.  Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more.  Add the rest of the spice mixture and cook briefly (a minute or two) until fragrant and toasted. 

Add the tomatoes and simmer until thickened (about 5 minutes).  Add the stock along with the chickpeas and bring to a simmer.  Add the chard and cook until just tender.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Gently fold in the roasted sweet potatoes and heat through. 

Serve with a large spoonful of couscous and a dollop of yogurt (or crumbled Feta).  Scatter the parsley over.  Serve with warm flatbreads on the side, if you like.

Serves 4 if serving couscous, 3 if not.
Cinnamon-Scented Couscous with Golden Raisins

1 cup couscous
1/2 t. salt
2 T. butter
1/2 c. golden raisins
1 1/4 c. water
1/4 t. cinnamon

 Place the couscous in a bowl with the salt, butter and raisins.  Bring the water to a boil and pour over the couscous.  Jiggle the bowl to make sure the water has penetrated all the couscous.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes (or however long the package says).  Uncover, add the cinnamon and fluff with a fork.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Serves 4.

(Couscous adapted from One Good Dish by David Tanis)


Patrick said...

FIrst, thanks for this wonderful blog. I often look here for cooking inspiration and find myself dazzled by your recipes and the thoughtful way you present them. In this case, it's not clear to me when to add the chickpeas. I plan to do so after the stock is simmering for about 10 minutes or so, and then add the greens. Did I miss something?

Anyways, much appreciation for a great blog.

Paige said...

Hi Patrick, I'm so sorry I left out that detail! Thank you so much for asking. There are times when I'm looking at an old post and I'll see an error...and I'll wonder if no one made the recipe? Or just guessed? Anyway, yes add the chickpeas with the stock...or a little after if you want to simmer the stock a bit to blend the flavors. I have fixed the recipe (both on the post and the print version).

And thank you for your kind feedback about my blog! It makes me so happy to know that people are finding inspiration and are cooking from my blog.