Sunday, 8 January 2012

Moroccan Chickpea & Zucchini Stew

My hearty winter comfort food so far has been very rich. Potatoes, cream and meat galore! There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But I get more sedentary in winter, and despite walking half an hour every day and always using the stairs, I sometimes feel like my warm and comforting food shouldn't knock me on my ass... or add padding to it. So today, I give you a filling and warming stew that's very different from the last!

After all the Holiday baking (and once my boyfriend and I got through the metric ton of dessert leftovers we ended up with), I reached for my copy of "Appetite for Reduction", an amazing collection of low-fat vegan recipes. As redundant as "low-fat vegan food" may sound to some, I have to say that when I feel like my body is in need of a little veggie delight/detox, I reach for this book hungrily. It is full of surprisingly filling and satisfying recipes, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz knows her spices!

Zucchinis are one of those veggies I am never really sure what to do with. This recipe is a great blend of flavors and texture, and it made me really appreciate this poor little underdog vegetable. I recommend this recipe as a winter dish, but really, you can make it all year long, whenever you find yourself asking the deep philosophical question: "What the devil do I do with all these zucchinis?!"

Even if this stew contains no meat, I love to make it in my beloved Dutchoven. The blend of cumin and coriander is warming and exotic, which makes a great cure to the occasional winter blues.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
a generous pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup baby carrots
2 zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch half-moon
1 (24 ounce) can whole tomatoes
1 (25 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, and some whole leaves for garnish

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent, about 4 minutes. add the garlic, ginger and chili flakes and sauté for another minute. Add the remaining spices and salt and sauté for about 30 seconds. Deglaze the pot with the veggie broth and mix in the carrots. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes. Add the zucchini. Break up the tomatoes with your fingers and add them to the pot, including the juice. Mix in the chickpeas. Cover the pot and bring to a slow boil. Cook for about 15 minutes, the adjust the lid so that there is room for some steam to escape. Cook for another 15 minutes; the liquid should reduce a bit, but not too much. Add the mint and let sit for about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary. Serve over couscous or quinoa.

Don't be daunted by the long ingredients list; they are very easy to come by and the generous batch of stew you'll have will give your body a (possibly) much needed detox from all the Christmas calories. I love all those chewy vegetables and I am mad about chickpeas and cumin.

If you have a carnivorous significant other like me, you can appease their ferocity by serving this along a couple of grilled merguez sausages. It's naughty, but delicious (and a few proteins never killed anyone - just make sure to use a grilling pan, so that the fat collects in the pan and not on the merguez)!

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