Compared to other years, this has been a relatively mild winter. As a result, the oven's been on much less than normal and the crock pot's been languishing all but forgotten in the upper kitchen cupboard.
It took this weekend's weather, with the wind howling and the snow blowing horizontally, to get me in the proper frame of mind for a stew.
Since I had a Christmas gift that I'd been dying to try out,
Jihadi Saffron(!!) from an African market in Puteaux
decided to try out one of the fussy Food-and-Wine recipes my boss forwarded me.
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 quart plus 2 tablespoons water
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
One 14.5 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 small zucchini, diced
1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon rind
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Yogurt and harissa, for serving
In a saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, 45 minutes. Drain.
In a bowl, crumble the saffron in the 2 tablespoons of water; steep for 10 minutes.
In a deep skillet, cook the onion and garlic in the butter and oil over moderate heat until golden, 8 minutes.
Add the cumin, cinnamon stick and crushed red pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the saffron water, chickpeas, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, the quart of water and a large pinch of salt; bring to a boil, then simmer until the squash and potatoes are tender, 30 minutes.
Add the zucchini and the preserved lemon; simmer until the zucchini is tender, 5 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Season the tagine with salt and pepper and stir in the cilantro. Serve in bowls with yogurt and harissa.
Instead of the preserved lemon (was out of it), I just grated the peel of a fresh lemon and added that. Parsley substituted for cilantro, as I didn't feel like schlepping out to get a bunch. I did have the harissa, but opted out of that, because the stew was already so aromatic. Served it over some basmati rice instead of couscous. Was so pleased with how my modified version turned out and especially loved the perfume that filled my kitchen during cooking.