Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Couscous and Mint Gremolata

I love a quick, easy weeknight meal. I love a quick, easy weeknight meal that tastes great and shakes my regular rotation of flavors up even more. I don’t cook with cinnamon often. It used to scare me a bit. I had never mixed what I considered a traditionally “sweet” spice with my regular savory ones until recently. I branched out last month with Chicken Tikka Masala and haven’t looked back.

moroccan vegetable stew with couscous and mint gremolata

Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Couscous and Mint Gremolata
via garlic shoots

Stew:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch diagonals
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
Large pinch saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 pound spinach, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped

Couscous:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup plain couscous
1 teaspoon salt

Gremolata:
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, 5 quarts or so, over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 or 8 minutes. Watch so they don’t burn. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in carrots, tomatoes, saffron, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, and ginger. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the beans, salt, pepper, and 1 3/4 cups of water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the peas and spinach, and cook uncovered for another 2 minutes, just until the spinach is wilted.
Heat the additional oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and stir until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.Meanwhile, bring 1 1/3 cups of water to a boil. Sprinkle salt over couscous. Pour water over couscous and cover. Let the couscous stand for 5 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Make the gremolata by combining the mint, parsley, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl. Divide the stew evenly among 4 shallow bowls. Dish couscous into the center of each bowl (a half-cup measure works wonders). Sprinkle gremolata over each bowl of stew.

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