Spiced Chickpea Stew with Butternut Squash & Spinach

spiced chickpea stew with butternut squash and spinach in a shallow brown bowl, a small white bowl to the side holds a cucumber slaw to top the stew with. the bowls are arranged on a blue and red tablecloth, with a small pot of ras el hanout and a tub of black nigella seeds.

A can of chickpeas, an onion, and some garlic make up the most unassuming of all blank canvases for a meal. These three homely ingredients become something special when combined, add in other pantry staples and spices and a meal worthy of casual company can come together quickly and without fuss. For this Spiced Chickpea Stew I made excellent use of frozen butternut squash and spinach, although fresh would work just as well. I’m going for convenience when making a recipe like this one. This recipe will keep for several days in the fridge, I generally eat it as written for a day or two before I begin adding in little extras to stretch out the leftovers. Mashed sweet potatoes or carrots  are lovely when mixed into this stew, rub chicken thighs with Ras El Hanout and olive oil and serve alongside the stew, or stir in a generous spoonful of this garlicky cashew cream with lime and cilantro. If there’s anything else I love more than a hearty stew it’s a crunchy, sweet, and tangy slaw to serve alongside (or on top!) of the chickpeas. The nigella seeds in the slaw aren’t strictly necessary, I’ve been using them a lot in salads lately and I find they complement the flavour of so many other ingredients I love, they look so pretty and they have such a lovely bright citrus flavour. The fun in this recipe is its flexibility, it’s a dream of a meal to put together when you have a the basic ingredients and a handful of miscellaneous items hanging about in the kitchen.

spiced chickpea stew with butternut squash & spinach:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small red onion, diced into small pieces

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup fresh or frozen butternut squash, cubed

1 red sweet pepper, diced into small pieces

1 Tbsp. Ras El Hanout or Garam Masala or curry powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. coriander

1 can of chickpeas, liquid reserved

3/4 cup vegetable stock

1 bunch of spinach or 1/2 package of frozen spinach

Generous amount of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion, garlic, butternut squash cubes, red sweet pepper and cook until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Add the Ras El Hanout (or spice blend of your preference), cumin, coriander, and a generous pinch of salt and cook with the vegetables for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the entire can of chickpeas, including the liquid (this will help thicken the stew) and the vegetables stock. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until some of the liquid has evaporated, stirring in the spinach to cook  over the last few minutes.
  4. Serve the stew piping hot with a dollop of Greek yogurt or at room temperature with a side of Orange Cucumber Slaw with Nigella Seeds.

orange cucumber slaw with nigella seeds:

1 small cucumber, pulp removed and sliced into thin half moons

1 orange, zested and juiced

Drizzle of olive oil

2 Tbsp. scallion greens, sliced thinly

1 small bunch of parsley, finely snipped with scissors

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1 tsp. nigella seeds

Pinch of dried chilies

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, gently stirring to combine. Serve with Spiced Chickpea Stew with Butternut Squash and Spinach (or, stuffed into a pita with shredded chicken, butter lettuce, and mayonnaise mixed with a small amount of orange juice and zest).

Flowing slowed down shimmery songs like this one have always been a weakness of mine, I blame it on an early obsession with Mazzy Star, Belly’s sophomore album King, and Suzanne Vega.

The Black Ryder – Let Me Be Your Light

 

 

Eggplant Dip Topped with Fattoush Salad

fattoush-eggplant-dip2

Not to harp on eggplants or anything, I realize I profess my love for them frequently, but this eggplant dip topped with a variation on fattoush salad is everything I dream about when I dream about food (the vast majority of my waking hours). If you’ve read this recipe for Ridiculously Simple and Creamy Eggplant Dip and tried it out for yourself, whether you left it true to form or tried any of the other suggested additions, then you’ll know the value of roasting a whole eggplant until it looks like a shrivelled up witch’s foot. This isn’t a true fattoush salad as I’ve added a few extra ingredients but it’s definitely reminiscent of the original; I admit that when I have a jar of pickled peperoncini peppers in the fridge I feel compelled to add them to just about everything. This has become a beloved party dip over the span of a month and I’ve eaten it solo in my pyjamas for dinner at least 5 times (I don’t bother with anything to use as a dipping vessel, a fork does just fine thank you very much). As long as you make sure to drain the cut up tomatoes and cucumber on some paper towel before adding them to the eggplant base you can have leftovers the next day, just be warned that raw garlic seems to become exponentially stronger after a night sitting in the fridge – approach with caution.

Brown shallow earthenware bowl filled with eggplant dip and with a topping of fattoush salad

eggplant dip topped with fattoush salad:

for the eggplant dip:

1 eggplant, scored several times and roasted whole at 425 degrees for 1 hour or until black and shrivelled on the outside

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

1-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tsp. Ras El Hanout

Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Scoop out the custardy eggplant insides and combine in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Use a large fork to whip the mixture into a frenzy until it becomes a creamy and relatively smooth dip. Set aside while you make the fattoush salad.

for the fattoush salad:

About 1/2 cup cucumber chopped into smallish pieces, laid out and drained on a piece of paper towel for 20 minutes

About 1/2 cup tomato cut into small chunks, laid out and drained on a piece of paper towel for 20 minutes

3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

5 pickled peperoncini peppers, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of parsley, torn into very small pieces

Juice of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. sumac

Generous pinch of dried chili flakes

Kosher salt

In a salad bowl gently toss together the cucumber, tomato, scallions, and peperoncini peppers. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil and top with the sumac and chili flakes, adding a pinch of kosher salt to round out the flavours.

Transfer the eggplant dip to a shallow bowl and spoon the fattoush salad over top, adding another drizzle of olive oil for presentation and extra flavour. Serve with pita bread or crispy baguette slices, or with a fork and nothing else.

I was reading today that this October Vancouver has had 28 days of rain, which actually is fine by me because I love rainy weather (I can’t claim to speak for everyone with this preference). Walking in the rain for long periods of time makes me feel more alive than a stroll on a sunny day. The ocean is best when it’s entirely greyscale, and listening to the combined sound of water lapping on the shore and rain falling on wet leaves is like a being wrapped in the most comforting blanket imaginable. But I’ve realized it’s also been a month of depressing music, lots of downtempo, minimal everything, and more Nick Drake than you can shake a stick at. I’ve been making the attempt for a full single day now, and although it’s been tempting to listen to the new Casino Versus Japan album nonstop I’ve been filling my ears with Teeel’s gloriously synthy good times. And you know what? I had a bit more bounce in my step tonight when I walked to the beach in the pouring rain.

Teeel – Temple of the Sun

Roasted Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Ras El Hanout

Roast chicken, tabouleh, hummus, and tzatziki arranged in serving dishes on a bright purple tablecloth

I’m on a train tonight, speeding to Seattle through the blinding radiance of sun and sky and orange sleepy light. Sometimes we’re next to the ocean, where gold skitters across the surface of the water and sometimes we’re in the woods, where the gold is interrupted by the softest of pine shapes. I’m listening to Amen Dune and my heart is hurting, how do you even start to think of all the shattering of hearts and spirits in Orlando right now? It feels too abstract when it’s so far away, thinking about it is like laying in bed at night trying to get a sense of how large the universe is. I’m trying to concentrate on chasing the sun in this train, about seeing my family in Seattle, about how lucky I am in one million ways, and about this past year’s events – both good and bad. I love my family, I love my friends, I’m trying to think of you all right now and just send rays of kindness in your direction; I hope you can feel it. I have a private blog of my favourite poems and quotations and right now I keep falling back to this one from Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past:

“When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls· bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.”

Be with the people who you love as much as you can. Forgive petty indifferences as they come, and seek to connect hearts as much as possible. Make a nice meal for the people you love, or better yet, make it together. This meal was made for my friends with ingredients from Morocco brought to me by other dear friends. Lie under the dense canopy of gentle goodness whenever you can, be better through the gold light in your life.

roasted chicken:

1 roasting chicken

Olive oil

Ras El Hanout

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped into large pieces

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Fleur de sel (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub the chicken skin with the Ras El Hanout until covered. Place the chicken breast up in a small roasting pan on top of the chopped onion. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the bird for 15 minutes at high heat. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and roast for about another 45 minutes (times will vary depending on the size of the chicken, but you’re aiming for an internal temperature of 165 degrees).
  4. Tent the chicken with aluminum foil once it’s out of the oven, give it about 15-20 minutes to rest if you’re eating it right away. Carve the meat and arrange on a big serving platter; add a small sprinkling of fleur de sel if you have it.

quinoa salad:

1 cup of quinoa

1 English cucumber, cut into thin quarter moons

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 bunch of scallions, green parts sliced thinly

1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

1 bunch of mint, roughly chopped

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. Ras El Hanout

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly cracked pepper

  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Fluff with a fork and move it to the fridge to cool.
  2. Add the cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, parsley, and mint to a large salad bowl. Add the quinoa and gently toss to combine.
  3. Whisk together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Ras El Hanout, olive, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat. Allow to sit for at least half an hour, giving it some extra freshly cracked pepper before serving for good measure. This salad keeps for about 3 days in the fridge and makes a perfect portable lunch.

Amen Dunes – Splits Are Parted