Let me tell you, this light, spicy and warming Moroccan vegetable stew is worth the investment in all the interesting and tasty spices it uses. Tender chunks of butternut squash, potato, sweet pear, and chickpea swim in a creamy tomato-yogurt sauce with rich, fragrant spices. I love how it’s complemented by the light, fluffy pearls of whole grain Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Couscous. They’re a perfect match.
This meal is the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and it’s utterly satisfying, as well as low-fat and packed with veggies. It’s perfect whether you’re into “Meatless Mondays” or are currently observing Lenten Fridays.
A ‘tagine’ refers to both the North African recipe, and to the lidded clay pot traditionally used there to slowly cook this stew over low heat. Fortunately, no extra equipment is required to make this stew, with all its amazing spices and flavors, and you can forget about the long wait; you can make this tagine pretty quickly and easily in a deep skillet or saucepan on the stovetop. The secret to making this an easy one-pot dish is adding the ingredients in order from the longest cooking time to the shortest–it seems fussy, but when you work your way through bites of the finished tagine, with each morsel cooked through to perfection, you’ll be happy you did.
This tagine comes together in a snap once you gather the ingredients. Case in point; this incredible mandala of spices it uses: black pepper, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and crushed chili pepper flakes. I felt like I was emptying my spice drawer, but man, is it worth it. (I don’t find it too spicy, as in hot-spicy—not like Mexican or Thai food with lots of chilis. It’s more interesting, and intense with this mixture of spices.)
To begin, heat a skillet and add a little olive oil, and then add onion, which slowly softens and caramelizes. Add garlic and cook a little longer.
Now add in all those spices. The hefty mixture of spices coats the soft onions, and as they come in contact with the heat, they make your kitchen smell like an exotic marketplace. (Or so I like to imagine.)
Add pureed tomato and vegetable stock to begin the sauce, and then add the potatoes and squash, which will take the longest to cook. They’ll simmer gently and become tender.
Once the squash and potatoes have had a chance to soften, the more delicate ingredients—cooked chickpeas and sweet juicy pear—join the mix, and everything bubbles happily together to the finish.
Turn off the heat, add Greek yogurt to complete the sauce, and you’re ready to serve. Well, almost ready – with a quick side like Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Couscous, all you need to do is bring a little veggie stock to a boil, pour in the couscous, cover, turn off the heat, and wait – it’s ready to serve in just 5 minutes. Fluff it up, add in a little cilantro and lemon juice to make it sing, and you’re off to the dinner table.
NOW you’re ready to eat. Serve with a little extra cilantro or parsley, and add another dollop of Greek yogurt if you’d like, to manage the spices and cool everything off.
I’ve configured this recipe to be as quick and convenient as possible—just about everything is cabinet-friendly and ready to throw in the pot for a quick weeknight meal. Please feel free to substitute fresh produce for frozen if you’d rather– fresh peeled tomatoes, peeled and cubed butternut squash. Heck, you could cook your own chickpeas from scratch if that’s what you like.
You just have to keep in mind what needs the most time to cook, and add ingredients to the skillet in order from most cooking time to least — big solid chunks like potatoes, fresh squash, carrots, and the like all take more time; things like cauliflower, broccoli, or peas are somewhere in the middle, and softer fruits (pears, dried apricots or prunes, etc) take hardly any time at all. Test each round by spearing a chunk with a fork before you add the next round, and keep in mind that you should add the next round when the current round is *almost* cooked through — since it will continue to cook.
One last note . . . this may be the most spices I’ve ever used in one recipe. What do you think? Does it sound scary to you, or exciting?
Stovetop Squash Tagine with Butternut Squash, Potatoes, Chickpeas and Pear
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic puree
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
1-2 cups diced waxy potato, such as Yukon Gold (about 4 medium potatoes)
1 10-ounce bag frozen butternut squash cubes (or 1 ½ cups fresh butternut squash, peeled and cubed)*
1 14.5-ounce can tomato puree or low-sodium tomato sauce
1 cup vegetable stock
1 can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium pear, cored and diced
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup Greek-style yogurt, plus more to serve
Chopped cilantro or parsley, to serve
Heat a large skillet or sauce pan over low to medium heat, and add olive oil. When hot, add chopped onions. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, translucent, and just starting to caramelize– about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté one more minute, then add spices and sauté, stirring, for one to two more minutes, or until spices are fragrant.
Add tomato puree, vegetable stock, and diced potatoes to pan. Cook 8-10 minutes, then add frozen cubed butternut squash* and season with salt. Simmer gently 5 more minutes. (Note: now is an excellent time to boil the stock for couscous so it’s ready to serve at the same time the tagine is ready.)
Add chickpeas and pear and simmer gently for 10 more minutes. Check squash and potatoes, and cook until desired tenderness. Try to avoid overcooking the butternut squash. Turn heat to low and add Greek yogurt. Mix until color is uniform.
Serve hot over lemony-herb whole wheat couscous (below); with extra Greek yogurt and chopped parsley or cilantro.
Note: Makes 6-8 servings. Leftovers can be kept in tupperware and reheated in the microwave. Keeps in refrigerator for 3-5 days
*Note: If using fresh butternut squash, add it at the same time as the potatoes, since it will need a little more time to cook. Frozen squash, I’ve found, becomes tender very quickly as it cooks.
Lemony-Herb Whole Wheat Couscous
1 box Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Couscous
2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3-4 Tablespoons fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
Boil 2 cups vegetable stock. Add olive oil. Pour in box of Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Couscous, stir, turn off heat, and cover. After 5 minutes, water should be absorbed. Fluff with fork, add cilantro or parsley, and squeeze in lemon juice. Season with salt and serve hot.