I’m not sure about where you live, but around here it has been ridiculously warm this winter (see exhibits A and B). For the first time that I can remember, I’m wishing that it would snow hard just one time so that the season doesn’t end without a blanket of white on the ground, in the trees, and on top of cars.
On one hand, the unseasonably warm weather is kind of convenient. No shoveling, snow boots or even excessive use of the heater. (Unlike many landlords in New York City, mine does not pay for my heat. Therefore, we don’t turn it on unless we really need to.) On the other, it sort of feels like winter never came and that we’re in a perpetual state of fall except with no colorful leaves and winter coats everywhere out of habit, not because they’re actually needed every day.
It’s also strange to be at home in a tank top and cooking soup or marinara sauce because I haven’t been craving those things that much. But it’s hard to eat otherwise, I feel, as the farmer’s markets are full of kale, brussels sprouts, parsnips and cabbage, food that screams winter. It’s a strange and not all that serious dilemma, but it’s made me think about the food we eat, why we eat it, and what motivates us to prepare certain foods in certain seasons.
I guess part of it is the human condition. We need heartier food in the colder months to help shield us against the winter freeze. Our bodies work better that way. And in the summer we turn to salads or cold pasta dishes with fresh herbs and lemon zest because weighing ourselves down during those months just wouldn’t feel right.
My meals have sort of been all over the place this winter. I’ll crave a salad one day and the next I’ll be all over a big bowl of hot lentil soup. And there have been lots and lots of sweet potatoes. Like, almost every day, in all forms (sweet potato fries, curries, soups, tostadas, and most recently, COOKIES! Recipe coming soon.)
Scott received this cookbook for Christmas and I’ve been swooning over the pictures in it ever since. Naturally, I cooked the recipe whose picture I fixated on the most, and the winner in this case was a sweet potato and chickpea stew with couscous.
The preparation of the stew itself was pretty straight forward and included chopping, dropping, sauteeing, and seasoning. The interesting part of the preparation here was for how to make the couscous.
When I first read the recipe and it suggested steaming the couscous, I was bewildered. I had never seen it prepared this way and was sure that if I followed the recipe, I’d mess it up. I decided to forge ahead, anyway, and am SO glad I did, despite the extra time it took. The resulting couscous from this recipe is fluffy and soft, and all of the granules remain separate when you steam them so there are no clumps! Adding chopped almonds, toasted coconut and raisins makes it more full and nuanced with bits of sweetness from the raisins and the occasional bite of light almond or coconut throughout. It’s some of the best couscous I’ve ever had.
The accompanying stew works perfectly on top of the couscous. The chickpeas and sweet potatoes soften after stewing with the tomatoes, stock and spices, and the whole stew mingles together, each flavor streaming through the others while the separate ingredients keep their own identities, too. The sweet potatoes shine through and add a buoyant sweetness to the dish while the chickpeas add heft and the curry powder offers a spicy, fragrant background. Served over the couscous, this stew is hearty and warming, but still retains a bit of lightness, lending itself well to this unseasonable warmth while reminding me that it is still really winter. And I like that.
One Year Ago: Restaurants | ilili
Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew with Couscous
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
If you'd rather skip the trouble of steaming the couscous, feel free to cook it according to the packaged directions to save time.
1 1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock, divided
1 large onion, peeled and outer skin discarded
2 cinnamon sticks
2 1/3 cups uncooked couscous (I used whole wheat)
extra virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 heaping tablespoon of curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cups raisins
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1. In a small saucepan, pour in a cup of stock or water, the outer layer of the peeled onion (not the skin that you've discarded, but the first layer of onion that you'd eat), and the two cinnamon sticks, and bring to a boil.
2. In the mean time, rinse the couscous in a mesh sieve or for 30 seconds and run your fingers through the grains, separating them as you work through. Prop the sieve over the boiling stock/water (You should be able to let it rest there with the couscous far above the water, not touching it at all), and allow it to cook by steaming. Cover the pot (you won't be able to cover it completely because of the sieve, but just prop the cover on top of it) Let it steam for 20 minutes. If the water or stock begin to evaporate, add more to the pot whenever it gets low.
3. After 20 minutes, pour the couscous into a bowl, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and salt, fluff with a fork, and put the couscous back in the sieve over the stock, cover it, and steam for another 20-30 minutes until completely cooked.
4. While the couscous is in its second round of steaming, chop the rest of the onion that you didn't put in your boiling stock pot. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add a teaspoon of olive oil, and saute the onion for 5 minutes until slightly soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, bell pepper, salt and black pepper and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, curry powder and nutmeg, stirring well and adding more oil if the pan seems dry. Saute for another 5 minutes and then add the tomatoes, half cup of stock (or water), and the chickpeas. Simmer, covered for about 30 minutes, or until the sweet potato is completely cooked and tender.
5. Once the couscous has finished steaming and is fully cooked, drop it back into the bowl, drizzle with a bit more olive oil, add more salt, and fluff.
6. In a small skillet, toast the almonds, raisins and coconut for 3-5 minutes until fragrant and browned very slightly, but not burned. Add this to the couscous bowl and stir to combine.
7. Once all components of the dish are finished, spoon the couscous onto a serving platter or onto individual plates, and serve the sweet potato and chickpea stew on top of the couscous.