Friday, October 22, 2010

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Have you ever watched Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Adventures on PBS? What an awesome show. Ruth goes all over creation trying some very unusual and interesting foods in different locations. Back when I actually had a television and the time to watch it, her show was a regular on my Saturday morning must-see lineup - right after Rick, Lydia, and 1 hour of Mr.Kimball.

In one episode, Ruth traveled to Morocco and watched the locals make an assortment of traditional Moroccan dishes. The episode inspired me - the following weekend I made this stew. This was several months ago, when I had the energy and time to cook elaborate meals, when cooking was fun and exciting, and not the stressful chore that it is now.

Do I sound bitter? It's because I am and I'm just going to say it. I'm going to bitch and whine and complain because I can. It's something I've never really done on this blog because in the past, I've always been too worried about pleasing my readers and attracting new ones...I mean who wants to read a bitchy blog, right? So my motto has been to always show a happy face.

But I don't care anymore. If I can't complain on my blog, then I can't complain anywhere. So here goes: I'm sad. I don't like teaching. I hate being away from people that I love. It's Friday night and I'm sitting at home. Very few things excite me nowadays. I feel hopeless and helpless all the time. I feel like a weakling for feeling this way, but I can't help it. I cry at least 3 times a week and usually more than that. I'm not sure what I'm doing here. Have you had enough? Good, because I'm done, for now that is.

Well, except for the recipe part, which is below. Make this stew. It's amazingly good - I made it in April and I can still remember how good it was. I have 2 butternut squashes sitting in my quiet kitchen waiting to be turned into this stew. Pray for me that they're not sitting for too much longer.

A preserved lemon that went into the stew.
Stew ingredients in pot.

Finished stew.

Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew (adapted from Aida Mollenkamp)


* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
* 4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 pound butternut squash, large dice
* 3/4 pound red potatoes, large dice
*1 bunch swiss chard, chopped (my addition)
* 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
* 2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
* 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juices
* Pinch saffron threads, optional
* 1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
* 1 cup brined green olives
* Steamed couscous, for serving
* Fresh parlsey leaves, roughly chopped, for garnish
* Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish


Heat butter and olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add squash, potatoes, and swiss chard, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juices, and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon and olives. Serve over couscous garnished with parsley and almonds.


  1. Ms. Meanie, this looks delicious! Did you know Algerian cuisine is my favorite food ever? So Moroccan is pretty up there if you know what I mean?!
    Hmm, you know, my Dad hated teaching. He hated everything though;) A lot of people do feel that way about teaching it seems. Maybe you will feel better once you've made some connections to people there. It's hard at first when we're alone in a new place and haven't found new people who want us around (smile). My Cauldron Boy is sad right now b/c we just moved to a place where we know no one. He's all about Friendship Station at our house, so our new place being empty really affects him...
    Anyway, my Mom always says when one feels sad and empty that we should go out into the world and help people. I don't know if this works, but I'm actually about to try to find a charity to volunteer for-hoping to find something to do with organics and nutrition in reference to low income communities, but we'll see.
    I'll let you know if my Mom's advice was right. Hope you feel better, Ms. Meanie.
    XO, Stella

  2. I'm worried about you! You need to give some serious thought to changing things in your life.
    What would you like to do? Where would you like to live? How can you accomplish this? Have you anyone you can talk to? Family you can call? Church? Please think about what would make you happy and DO something about it.

  3. Babe you can bitch to me as long as you want. I can total understand. I have many a bitch session about med school all the time. I hate it a lot. And I'm not really super happy. But it is what it is.

    The early months in a new place can be so hard and I hope you find a niche (or a new job somewhere else...).

    In the meantime, at least your food looks absolutely amazing. I love love love stews like this.

    (Seriously if you want to email me and bitch...totally more than welcome to.)

  4. I completely, 100% understand you. And it's ok. When it comes to blogging, I have the same fears, and concerns. Should I convey exactly how frustrated I am, or how helpless I feel about something slipping through my fingers?

    I'm one of your readers (always will be) and I would much rather read someone who writes honestly, instead of phony, and sugary-sweet. Life can be quite the bitch at times and it's alright to vent. I admire you even more for being yourself. And I do hope things will get better for you soon. Please feel free to write anytime you need to ( my email is on my blog.)♥

    P.S. That Moroccan stew is stunning! I love Ruth Reichl. :~)

  5. I'm not even going to address the stew, which looks absolutely fabulous. I'm just going to give you a huge hug and let you know that it's OK to vent on your blog. It's one of the reasons that my blog's description is "recipes, reflections, and an occasional rant." Point being, it's YOUR blog and you can express whatever you wish to express. I've found as many friends through my rants as I have through my recipes.

    I love honesty. I love knowing others' flaws, shortcomings and disappointments because it makes me know that they're human and feel like they trust me enough to let me in on their troubles. I'll add you to my (ever-growing) prayer list hon. XOX

  6. Thanks for being honest. Honesty is one of the most valuable things you can provide to friends, in my opinion.

  7. i'm pretty keen on moroccan food, mostly because most of it incorporates cinnamon into the savory. this looks GREAT!

  8. I feel bad that you're not enjoying life too much these days. It is really hard to settle in and when we haven't go those we love around us, it's even harder. I used to travel a lot for work, and now I am finding it hard to stay in one place. I keep telling myself to get more involved in my community, but I haven't yet. Hopefully it works for you.
    Of course you can always bitch on your own blog! In fact, I like honest emotions better than sunshine and lollipops.
    I hope to make this stew soon, as I have a butternut squash hanging around too. Bummer that I can't get that series up here.

  9. Hi there! I don't know u well enough to say *hugs* but I do wanna say hang in there - adjustment truly needs time. Hope things look up!

  10. I'm currently compiling a list of 100 Cooking Blogs for students and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions and you and your blog. Please write me an e-mail at and include the title of your blog in the e-mail, thanks!

  11. :(

    It's hard to know what to do at times, but also comforting when you can cook something to take your mind off it. It may not solve all problems, but it sure can comfort, nourish, and in general make you feel 100% better.

    Hope you are able to work out what you should be doing... it's the best feeling to love your job. I know, because I love mine! (Stay-at-home-Mami!) Meanwhile, keep your chin up, and know that lots of people genuinely care about you, msmeanie!!!

  12. I just found this blog through a mutual friend of ours who was visiting from Germany. :) You have so many beautiful posts and recipes!!! I'm sorry to hear that not everything's going well - I do hope that things improve!

  13. Hey you!! Swiss chard & butternut squash = two of my most favorite ingredients! (In spite of your vegetarian nature, I find my carnivorous self mouth-watering over your posts every time!!:))
    As far as the Creme Fraiche deal goes, did I ever tell you about the time I doggedly traipsed up and down isles at Nuggett looking for the darned stuff...never to find it. Well, never again, thanks to your blog! I can be self-sufficient. Thank you :)
    Now about the teaching...Just keep cooking and running! You're a strong lady and inspiring to all of us. Tonight it was 3k in the dark on the track in the rain...I know you probably wished you were there but to be honest, it was a real pain in the rear!!

  14. you're so honest and I love that at least you feel relieve! I totally understand you. . .you still have reasons to smile! your blog, beautiful photos and great recipes. Just pray alright?take care:)
    health is riches

  15. It has to be hard being in a new place, that doesn't feel like home, and away from the people you love. Eventually you're going to get to a place where it's your happiness that matters most and you will seek it out and go to because you know it's what you deserve, even if it's in a place where you take a job that pays less. There's no price for happiness.

    "We don't see things as THEY are. We see things as WE are."--Anais Nin

    Get yourself to a place where what you see is love and good and happiness and you'll know you're exactly where you belong.

    In the meantime, I'm keeping you in my thoughts and wishing you only good things.

    In my limited experience, even the hardest days, that feel like forever, are only temporary. The human spirit innately wants to be thriving in the best of us.

    And your cooking prowess is never lost on me. This is another winner! =)

  16. P.S. It's your blog and you can bitch all you want to. ;-)

  17. I just read your post and I teared up. I don't know you, but I know exactly how you feel. There are many times I want to 'let go' on my blog and say how I'm really feeling. However, there are a few bad people who used to be in my life who would read and enjoy it, and I'm worried I'll turn people off in general - so I refrain and basically keep it 'Mary Sunshine'. You have inspired me, though - one day, one day.

    On a brighter note, your stew looks incredibly delicious and lovely. :)