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