Friday, October 28, 2011

Cara's Moroccan Stew *heather

For this stew we can thank some woman named Cara. I've never met her, but she posted this recipe online and it's been a favorite of mine. I made two double batches this week. I brought some to a friend who needed a special hug and served it to my family on a snowy evening, and I still have some in the fridge and two portions in the freezer.

I like this soup because it's hearty, but meat-free which means it's light on the wallet. Nothing against meat, but sometimes it's nice to get our protein from other sources. It's also high in fiber which helps fill your tummy and stick to your ribs. No meat and high fiber with no added salt and no sugar means it's very heart healthy, as well.

1 cup dry lentils
3 bay leaves
2 whole garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 (8 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
4 cups vegetable (or chicken or beef) stock

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Stir in lentils, bay leaves and whole garlic cloves. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer lentils until they are cooked but still firm, about 10 minutes.Drain well; remove and discard whole garlic cloves and bay leaves. Place lentils in a bowl; toss with olive oil, thyme and 1 tablespoon chopped garlic.Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in chili flakes, cinnamon, cumin and coriander. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices. Add garlic, onion, celery, zucchini, red and yellow peppers, and squash; stir well to coat the veggies in the spices; cook 3-4 minutes until the veggies start to soften and their color brightens up and they turn a little translucent.

(it's good to have your veggies chopped before you start this step so you can add them to the spices in the pot as soon as the spices become fragrant. If the spices burn, it adds a little acrid flavor to the stew that isn't so nice.)

Mix in the lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas and stock. Raise heat to medium-high until stew just begins to boil; reduce heat to low and cover. Summer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Cara suggests garnishing with a dollop of plain yogurt, some chopped mint and a pinch of cayenne pepper. I haven't really followed that suggestions. If you try it, let us know how you like it. If you're wondering about the heat of this dish, I will say that when I double the recipe I double all the spices except the red pepper flakes and the spice falls at "medium" heat equivalent to a medium store-bought salsa. So if you're making a single portion, the heat may be higher and you may want to halve the red pepper flakes.

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