cabbage and acorn squash stew with coconut


I had no luck finding an authentic Moroccan tagine in N.Y.C, mostly because I tried to fit too much in a short span of time. However, I did get few tips on where to look online (which is what I will be resorting to). My week back in D.C. has been filled with rain and school. Exhilaration combined with a huge sigh of relief has been the theme of my week, as my thesis topic was finally accepted and I can now begin to crank out the potentially to-be extremely long literature review component.


To make life easy this week, I decided to go back and work on a recipe that has been stuck in my mind for a while. A Harissa based coconut stew with a little bit of an Indian kick to it. Luck was on my side, when I found a huge cabbage and an acorn squash nested in our C.S.A box this evening. The recipe is simple and quick and tasty. Not only can you play around with the Harissa depending on how much heat you want but you can also substitute the acorn squash with any other kind of squash that can hold is texture. Perhaps, some pumpkin or carnival squash ? Serve this on a bed of a hot rice or with hot naans.



cabbage and acorn squash stew with coconut

yield: 6 servings

ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cups coarsley chopped green cabbage
2 cups chopped acorn squash
1 cup freshly ground coconut
1 tablespoon Harissa (Recipe is linked in here)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon dry mango powder
1 teaspoon dry ginger powder
salt and pepper to season
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1. In a large dutch oven or stockpot (which is what I used), heat up one tablespoon of the olive oil on a high flame and add the cabbage, squash and coconut. Stir constantly and gently for about 5 minutes and reduce to medium flame. 
2. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the mustard seeds) and mix and let them cook for about 20 minutes or till the squash and cabbage are soft and tender. Season with salt and pepper. 
3. In a separate pan, heat the rest of the olive oil till it smokes (which will happen very quickly) and add the mustard seeds. Let the seeds cook for a few seconds till they begin to sputter. Pour the mustard seeds and olive oil on top of the stew.

pork and beluga lentils with harissa


I must be honest, I am not looking forward to tomorrow evening. Day one of the first class of my final year. I am four classes away from self-inflicted torture. Exams, tests, projects, theses etc... I dread my upcoming thesis nightmare as much as fire loves water. I've been conjuring up vacations in my head and already planning my summer trips for next year. 


I will miss my "free" evenings for one more year now. Perhaps, it would be more apt to say "education-free" evenings, either way another school year begins but at least its the final one. I must be more patient like Garfield.


I've been looking forward to slow cooking pork chops with the Harissa, I made recently. One mainly because I want to eat this Harissa soon and two because we got some nice cuts of pork. Chicken or beef would make excellent substitutes for pork. There is something marvelous about slow cooking in a crock-pot, the aromas in the room and the way the meat melts off the bone is simply amazing. If I could try to add anything to every meal, it would be beluga or black lentils. I love their creamy and meaty texture especially in Indian lentil broths like dals. This turned out to be a fairly easy dish that could be served with warmed pita or toasted bread slices. I like my pork shoulders to contain at least a small amount of fat when I begin with them, since pork chops that are too lean produce weak flavor and get dry during cooking. The advantage of cooking meat with their fats in a slow cooker allows for the rendering of the fat to produce nice complex flavors but also with the added advantage of skimming of all the excess fat from the top of the stew in the crock-pot. This way the fat serves its purpose and is then kicked out. This recipe does call for a whole bottle of wine, don't skimp, use a good quality white wine that you would serve to drink with your guests. I sometimes like to use wine instead of broths to cook meat with. 

pork and beluga lentils with harissa

yield: 6 servings

ingredients

2 cups beluga/black lentils
6 - 1" thick pork chops
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Harissa
2 tablespoons tomato paste
750ml Pinot Grigio
salt to season

1. Pre-soak the lentils overnight at room temperature. The next day, rinse the water off the lentils and keep aside. In the slow cooker or crock pot, adjust the temperature to the high setting and add the olive oil. When the oil heats up, add the harissa and tomato paste and saute it for about 3 minutes. 
2.Pour in the wine and mix the stew to a smooth liquid. Carefully, add in the pork chops and half a teaspoon of salt. Now, turn the setting on the cooker to the low setting and allow it to cook for 5 hours. 
3. After the pork chops are cooked, remove them from the resulting stew and let them rest covered with a lid. 
4. Add the beluga lentils to the broth in the pot and allow them to cook for a further one hour at the high setting. Skim and discard any excess fat from the surface of the broth and add the pork chops back to the stew. Serve hot with pita or toasted bread slices. 

harissa



What a weekend! Irene, the hurricane was nothing compared to suddenly catching someone break into your car and then run away with the phone and G.P.S charger. I guess that is the risk you take when you park on the streets in D.C. I am so proud of Snoopy for his alertness to the sound of the window getting shattered and thankful that nothing of any real value was stolen.


When I crave something, I must have it. This is probably my downfall when it comes to food. This week I am craving African and Middle Eastern food but all that pops in my head is Morocco. I am thinking of Moroccan tiles with the pretty patterns and clay tagines on a fire stove. Whenever, I think Moroccan food or North African food, Harissa is the first word that comes to my mind. Hot minty and garlicy, it is probably one of the hottest flavorings that can be used with meats, fish, rice, couscous, salads, soups etc. The recipe varies a little from household to household and you can make it your own by varying the ingredients. Traditionally, caraway seeds are added but fennel seeds can also be used as a substitute. I used a sun-dried chili called the Kashmiri chili since they are extremely hot and posses a strong  flavor to add heat to this sauce. To store Harissa, your options include canning or keeping it in an air tight jar or container. The olive oil that is left behind can be used to dip bread or dress salads.

harissa 

yield: Approximately 500ml 

ingredients

100 gm dried red chilies 
1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds (preferably caraway seeds if you can find some)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
12 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Remove all the stems from the chilies and then cover let them with just enough boiling water to reach the surface and let them soak for about 1 1/2 hours. Strain the chilies and discard the liquid. 
2. In a food processor, pulse the chilies, mint, fennel, cumin, coriander, sea salt, garlic, and olive oil. Process till you get a smooth paste. Store the ground paste in sterilized jars. The harissa should last for up to six months in the refrigerator.