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

 

 

Baked Hoisin Tofu with Stir Fried Greens and Toasted Cashews

Big skillet full of stir fried bok choy, asparagus, scallions, and baked hoisin tofu. Topped with toasted cashews.Baked tofu is so simple to make, almost the entire process is hands off and anything that isn’t is put together quickly with little ceremony. You can make it in the morning and then go off to work or back to bed to read and have a nap, or you can let it marinade for 20 minutes while you chop up the vegetables and toast the cashews – it will taste delicious either way. The only thing that I find really essential for baked tofu success is draining it before you slice it up. I do this by placing the block of tofu between 2 plates that are lined with paper towel and weighing the top plate down with a large can of tomatoes or something similarly heavy for about 30 minutes. This is a stir fry that stands on its own so I don’t tend to serve it with noodles or rice, although you definitely could do that if you felt like it. The vegetables don’t have to all be green, this is more of an aesthetic preference than anything else and shouldn’t determine whether or not you try this recipe. The cashews taste slightly smoky after being toasted but retain their buttery texture; feel free to experiment with nuts and seeds as toppings, I’m sure peanuts would be wonderful but as I’m allergic to them I haven’t tried substituting them in. It helps to make this recipe in a really big skillet so that the vegetables will cook quickly without getting too soft, they should remain slightly crunchy in contrast to the chewiness of the tofu.

baked hoisin tofu with stir fried greens and toasted cashews:

1 block of firm or extra from tofu, drained

1/3 cup of hoisin sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 bunches of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 small bok choy, torn into large pieces

1/3 cup cashews, smashed into smaller pieces with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet

Fresh basil or cilantro for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the tofu into 2 cm thick slices, arranging them in a single layer on a glass baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the hoisin and soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and water in a bowl. Pour over the sliced tofu, reserving a small amount for the stir fried vegetables. Flip the tofu pieces so that they are coated in the marinade and allow to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
  3. Bake the tofu for 40 minutes, turning over halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove and set aside.
  4. While the tofu is baking add all of the cashews to a large skillet and dry toast the cashew pieces for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring lots and keeping a close eye on them – they can burn in an instant. As soon as they begin to smell wonderful and toasty remove them from the heat and transfer them into a bowl, this will prevent them from continuing to cook from the skillet’s residual heat.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the grapeseed oil to the same skillet used to toast the cashews. Allow it to heat up before adding the asparagus and scallions. Stir fry the green vegetables for a few minutes before adding the torn bok choy and remaining marinade. Cook for 1 more minute, tossing the skillet contents to coat with the marinade and to wilt the bok choy.
  6. Transfer the vegetables to 2-4 bowls and top with slices of baked tofu, the toasted cashews, and the fresh basil or cilantro. Serve with a really cold beverage, my personal favourite is a lemonade or gingerale shandy – just the perfect amount of icy kick to complement the warmth of the stir fry.

Sunday soundtracks: either over-the-top depressing or please-no-more-anxiety uplifting, this Sunday I’m determined to spring for the second option. My anxiety levels are always through the roof on Sunday afternoons because well, they’re always been like that and it’s now a weirdly comforting part of my weekly routine. So here’s an excerpt from this Sunday’s happy soundtrack: beachy silly lovely boy rock.

The Drums – Days

Sweet Pepper Slaw with Fresh Herbs

Sweet Pepper Slaw

I spent my Easter weekend with good friends, my second family in lots of ways. All of us are from Ontario and away from our immediate families for the holiday, so it’s always nice to get together for way too many cocktails and an impressive spread of food. This year we had some incredible bacon and spinach stuffed mushrooms, green peppers stuffed with spiced rice, macaroni and cheese, strawberry Eton mess, and this sweet pepper slaw with fresh herbs. When serving such a rich selection of food it’s always nice to have something light on the menu and this colourful salad was a bright addition the creaminess of the pasta and stuffed mushrooms. Use any singular fresh herb or combination you’d like, I’ve used my favourite fresh basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley in this version of the recipe. A mandolin would be useful for cutting the peppers, but a sharp chef’s knife will work perfectly well, albeit more slowly.

sweet pepper slaw with fresh herbs:

5 large sweet peppers of various colours, cut into very thin strips

1 small cucumber, sliced into very thin half-moons and then drained on paper towel

4 scallions, sliced very thin

3 cups of torn spinach, romaine lettuce, baby kale, or bok choy (or a combination)

Several handfuls of fresh herbs (such as mint, cilantro, parsley, or basil), loosely torn so that they resemble delicate salad greens

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tsp. caster sugar, honey, or maple syrup

1 tsp. kosher salt

Generous amount of freshly cracked pepper

Toss all of the salad peppers and greens together in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, sherry vinegar, sweetener of your choice, salt, and pepper in a measuring cup, pour over the salad and toss to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving with additional fresh herbs scattered over top.

Speaking of friends from home, this album was my best friend at one point in my life about 13 years ago. It’s so strange listening to something that was so important to me at a totally different time in my life. I listened to Change while I was riding my bike along the Springbank park bike path, I listened to it during a particularly dark winter in my early twenties, and I listened to it over and over again in my first apartment during freshman year of university.

The Dismemberment Plan – Sentimental Man