Monday, April 22, 2013

Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Preserved Lemon

My good friend Deborah gave me a beautiful gift, recently: preserved lemons. She had written to me awhile ago to say that she had a bounty of riches, with too many lemons to use. What could she do with them?

I suggested pie, of course, because one can never, ever go wrong with pie. I happen to adore lemon pie (not that I was hinting!). But that wouldn't use up very many of the fruits.

So then I dared to offer the notion of preserved lemons, a classic of Moroccan cuisine, that are brined and sometimes spiced. Essentially, they are lemon pickles. Not too many folks would think this was a viable option, but Deborah is an adventurous cook who cares deeply about ingredients. She was the perfect person for this project!

Deborah happily accepted the challenge, and then very generously shared the results with me. So, of course, I delved into cooking something novel and exotic with this novel and exotic item.

I happen to be a huge fan of Moroccan food - stews, lamb, chicken, dried fruits, salads, breads, mint tea, and spices. But I've never made my own preserved lemons before, so I'd never had an opportunity to use them.

So I assembled my collection of ingredients and started cooking. Even though I own an authentic tagine [tah-ZHEEN] - a terra cotta cooking pot, and also the name of the stews cooked within them - I simply used a large skillet, figuring that it would be more readily found in others' kitchens than the more esoteric cookware; then I wouldn't have to worry about accommodating timing differences for cooking in the different utensils, etc. But, of course, I had to serve this in the right vessel!

With many thanks to Deborah for inspiring, and contributing to, this spicy, flavorful dish in honor of Ann Arbor Veg Week which begins today. I have signed a pledge to eat a vegetarian/vegan diet this week, and this is a lovely way to start things off! And also with thanks to my friends Rob and Ellen, for the lovely gift certificate to Spice Merchants, a beautiful store where I was able to buy the fragrant Moroccan spice blend I also used to make this dish.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Preserved Lemon

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Spice Merchants Moroccan Blend (contains garlic, onion, chilies, salt)
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with jalapeno peppers
1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
1 cup chopped sweet potato
1/2 preserved lemon, chopped fine
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
couscous, for serving

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and Moroccan spices; cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, sweet potato, and lemon; bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve over couscous.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: If you don't have any preserved lemons, or any friends who will share theirs with you, I think a spritz of lemon juice and some finely grated lemon zest would be good substitutes.


Jenn said...

What a great gift indeed! Not only was it truly thoughtful, but look at the dish you created with it! Mmmmmmmm... I could go for a large bowl of that right now!

Cranberry Morning said...

The recipe sounds delicious and the photo is beautiful. It brings back memories of a recipe I once got from my sister-in-law: 'Couscous Morocco with Hot Harrissa Sauce' (sp????) I can see I need a terra cotta pot!

Great recipe, Mary!

Anonymous said...

Was just talking with the hubby about preserved lemons and I have a tagine which I love. I think I need to make some preserved lemons cause this recipe sounds divine. And I agree 100% about the sushi! :)

j said...

My husband loves preserved lemons ( we call them pickled lemons) and he would eat them with everything. Your recipe looks amazing.

Chris said...

We had a tangine for about 1 day and it never got used. It suffered a tragic 3 foot fall :( Alexis said it would be dishonest to take it back to Williams and Sonoma and say "it came like that in the box" lol.

Ghosts of Postings Past and Present

Looking for Something ...?