Friday, November 4, 2011

Squash and Chickpea Tagine with Couscous

It was established, before we married, that The Professor and I would (upon winning the lottery) take the most amazing vacation to Southern Spain and Morocco. If we liked it (and we shall), we would buy an adorable vacation home near Marrakesh with a courtyard big enough to eat in and grow at least two citrus trees. I'd make Moroccan preserved lemons from our courtyard tree. At night, we'd sit outside surrounded by a few candles in rich colored glass lanterns and sip tea. I'd own exactly seven tagine pots (heavy bottom Moroccan cooking pot with a cone shaped lid - genius idea to cook a most perfect stew with the steam rising and then falling back down to keep the stew moist and the spices deeply involved) - not from Le Crueset (ok, maybe one!), but from the local market. Surrounded by beautiful things and flavorful foods: that's what I am convinced Morocco would be like.

I'm still waiting for my Powerball habitude to payoff, so I didn't have any homemade preserved lemons to add to this dish. Nor have I found a reliable recipe for homemade harissa (and it's impossible to buy the stuff locally) or I would have used that instead of cayenne pepper. Worst of all, I've yet to visit the market in Marrakesh to buy that handmade tagine I most certainly deserve, but my French oven (cast iron pot) worked well. With any luck, I maybe blogging to you from exotic and *warm* Morocco... someday! Until then, here is the recipe...

1 butternut (although probably most any squash would do) squash, peeled and cut into 2-3" cubes
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander/cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves of garlic crushed
1 yellow onion finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or - better yet - harissa!)
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp agave nectar or apricot preserves or a sweet lemon preserve
2 tsp tomato paste
2 cups of water
salt to taste

In a tagine - or heavy bottom pot (cast iron or dutch/french oven) soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil for just a couple of minutes. Then add the cumin and turmeric and cook for about 1 minute. Add the cayenne, paprika, agave, and tomato paste. Add the coriander and parsley.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Reduce heat to low (simmer) and cover. Let cook until the squash is soft, about 25 minutes. 

After about 15 minutes into the fully assembled stew cooking, make the couscous. It's best to make it towards the end because couscous cooks very fast and is best (fluffy and light) right after it is made. For this you need:

3 cups of vegetable broth or water
1 1/2 cups of Moroccan style couscous (tiny grain)
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup of golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
handful of chopped fresh mint 

Bring the water and olive oil to a boil. Add the couscous and return to a boil. Promptly remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and fold in the raisins and pine nuts and mint. The raisins add a really nice sweet chew to this dish.

Top the couscous with a generous portion of the tagine and garnish with coriander/cilantro.


  1. OMG This looks so good. I'm gonna try this. Loved this post. Great photos & great prose. I wish I were in Morocoo right now, too.... I guess we can cook our way there.

  2. This sounds great! Have to try it.