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The Root Vegetable Chronicles: Quinoa with Moroccan Carrot & Winter Squash Stew

February 4, 2009


Do you ever wonder why we develop certain taste preferences? I do. Back in my research biology days (college and immediately after) I was studying questions related to the behavior of DNA and organelles in our cells. Now, if I could do it again, I would have studied the physiology of taste. Why do we prefer the foods and flavors that we do? Actually, I think that question has already been answered — a lot of it is experiential; we develop food preferences through exposure and association. So if your parents fed you lots of tofu or lots of chili peppers when you were little, chances are you’d probably like them when you were an adult — exposure.


Or, if you’ve ever gotten sick soon after eating a particular food, chances are you’ll be turned off to that food for a loooooong time — association. Let’s say, for instance, you eat a particular favorite snack, which you think will be delicious and nutritious, right before receiving a bag of chemo. Sadly, chances are you will never be able to eat that snack again without remembering that awful feeling. (Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience. I cannot eat walnuts and raisins and dried cranberries mixed together anymore without thinking of the time I had a few handfuls before getting my chemo drip and feeling not-so-good right after. That used to be my favorite on-the-go, out-of-hand snack and now, sadly, the thought of it makes me feel slightly ill.)

mise en place for the stew


mise en place for the quinoa


Anyway, I’m thinking about all these things because I made this dish the other week and wondered aloud to myself “why, oh why, do I not cook Moroccan-style food more often?” As in, I think this might be the second time in my entire life I’ve cooked a dish with Moroccan flavors. And I loved it! But perhaps it was lack of exposure? We certainly didn’t eat any Moroccan food growing up, and I can’t say I ate it all that much even as I was living on my own.







This dish, however, is taking a firm place in our rotation. Besides the fact that the sunshine yellows of the turmeric-spiced couscous and the golden orange of the carrots and squash are color therapy for these winter days, it was a really great example of good flavors and textures blending together. I added chickpeas and golden raisins to the original recipe, and served it with a dollop of cooling yogurt, crunchy chopped toasted almonds, and a sprinkling of cilantro. You get spicy, sweet, savory, creamy and crunchy all in one bite. Really: you should make this. Soon. It’s a great dish to make on the weekend, when you’re puttering around the kitchen and can enjoy the warm, spicy smells wafting out of the pot. And if, like me, you haven’t eaten all that much Moroccan-style food, then what better way to correct that than exposure?

(Just don’t eat it before receiving a bag of chemo.)


Recipe Notes

  • I like to use this brand of quinoa (Ancient Harvest), if you can find it. It doesn’t require rinsing – if you can’t find this brand, you’ll have to rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer to remove the saponins that coat the grains.


  • I’d say this was moderately spicy with the 1/2 teaspoon cayenne; if you’re not sure about the spiciness level, you can always use a little less.
  • You could use any dark leafy greens you like in this; spinach, chard, kale, etc.


Quinoa with Moroccan Carrot & Winter Squash Stew

Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2006

view printable recipe


For the stew:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (1/4 teaspoon if you don’t like it too spicy)
1 cup water
1 cup golden raisins
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 juicy lemon)
3 cups 1-inch cubes peeled butternut squash (from 1 1/2-pound squash)
2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled carrots
1 15-oz can good-quality chickpeas, drained and rinsed (an organic brand is usually a good bet)
3 heaping handfuls dark leafy greens, torn into bite-sized pieces

For the quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

plain yogurt, for serving
chopped toasted almonds, for serving


For the stew:
Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or pot, until soft. Add the garlic; stir 1 minute. Mix in the paprika and the next 7 ingredients (all the spices); stir for about 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add 1 cup water, tomatoes, and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the squash and carrots. Cover the pot and simmer until the squash and carrots are tender,  Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Mix in paprika and next 8 ingredients. Add 1 cup water, golden raisins, tomatoes, and lemon juice. Bring to boil. Add squash and carrots. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Stir in the drained, rinsed chickpeas and the greens, and continue cooking another 5 minutes until the greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

For quinoa:
If you don’t have a pre-rinsed brand of quinoa, rinse the quinoa and drain it. Melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion and carrot. Cover and cook until the vegetables are soft, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and turmeric and saute for 1 minute. Add the quinoa, stir 1 minute, then add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat; cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in half of the chopped cilantro.

To serve:

Warm the stew and stir in the remaining half of cilantro. Spoon the quinoa onto platter, forming well in center. Spoon stew into well. Spoon the yogurt on top (you can pass additional yogurt as you serve it), sprinkle with additional chopped cilantro and almonds.

Makes about 6 servings.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria permalink
    February 4, 2009 9:07 am

    Looks really good. I think that parents attitudes have so much to do with it too. For the longest time I thought I hated mushrooms and avocado, and a host of other things that I had probably never eaten, but my mom disliked. Even now with my little brother, my mom will say “oh he doesn’t like asparagus,” but I’ve never even seen him try it. I think it’s a really interesting topic too.

  2. February 4, 2009 9:28 am

    I bought a pack of quinoa that I’ve been mulling over for a while. I’m a little afraid, but I love Moroccan flavors and I mixed some ras el hanout recently, so I think I’ll try this. Thanks.

  3. LynninRI permalink
    February 4, 2009 9:49 am

    Amy –
    My bags were Taxol and Carboplatin – for ovarian and uterine – What were yours for? The only thing I enjoyed eating during chemo was kale…I couldn’t get enough of it…my office staff laughed as I ate Kale for breakfast….It is still my favorite…no, wait maybe it is Swiss Chard…I volunteer at the Providence Farmer’s market every Saturday at an organic stand – it is fun and the food is fabulous…
    Love your blog

  4. February 4, 2009 11:44 am

    Moroccan food is one of my absolute favorites and this one looks terrific. I love that your photographs look beautiful and not mono-chromatic. I also love quinoa and am always looking for new places to use it.

  5. February 4, 2009 11:50 am

    Wow that looks like heaven. I don’t think I have ever hand moroccan food. I will have to fix that!

    I used to hate pork chops after getting sick later that night as a kid. It really was just a stomach flu but I def. associated for a long time,

  6. Katey permalink
    February 4, 2009 2:35 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and love to see what you write about food! This looks absolutely delicious, I’m going to have to try it this weekend. Funny that I saw this today as I was planning on making fried “rice” with quinoa tonight. I love that stuff. Keep up the good work!

  7. Betsy permalink
    February 4, 2009 3:08 pm

    Amy – this dish looks DELICIOUS and so healthy too! I didn’t love quinoa that only other time I made it, but I may have to give it another try (or just use cous cous). The colors and flavors looks great – mmmm, moroccan 🙂

  8. February 4, 2009 3:46 pm

    I just made a morroccan stew, the flavors in it are so great. I really like the looks of yours beautiful.

  9. February 4, 2009 4:03 pm

    this is a WHOLE lot of goodness on one plate. i love moroccan flavors and quinoa and everything about this. 🙂

  10. February 4, 2009 10:05 pm

    i thought this looked familiar 🙂 love it, and it’s on my list to try!

  11. February 4, 2009 11:38 pm

    When my Mom was younger she ate guava right before getting malaria and can’t eat guava to this day… that was over 30 years ago!

  12. February 5, 2009 4:07 am

    ooooooooooooo yum!! am addicted to chickpeas and anything moroccan in origin!! I’ve never made quinoa either so it’s something I’ll have to try, I’m thinking Saturday dinner for this with a glass of wine………….

  13. February 5, 2009 10:11 am

    I just bought a new box of quinoa this weekend–this is the perfect recipe for it! Looks great, I can’t wait to try it.

  14. nysdelight permalink
    February 6, 2009 7:13 pm

    Delish! Wow..I love the colors the look I can just taste it as well! Well done!

  15. February 11, 2009 7:45 pm

    I made this dish for dinner tonight. It is incredibly delicious! I substituted brown rice for the quinoa, and used spinach for the greens. Yummy! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  16. Katie permalink
    March 4, 2009 11:22 am

    My husband and I made this for dinner recently. It was wonderful! I didn’t realize I was in love with Quinoa!

  17. Bonnie permalink
    February 8, 2010 3:14 pm

    I came across your website while looking for new quinoa recipes. I made this and adored it. I did a cup of carrots and a cup of parsnips because I am a huge parsnip fan. Thanks for all the recipes!

  18. Melissa permalink
    November 26, 2010 3:10 pm

    The whole family loved this recipe and my son didn’t even try to pick out the swiss chard! Plus it used up lots of the harder to use items in my veg box. The squash cooks down to a really delicious creamy consistency – yummy!

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