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every december

Recipe: moroccan butternut squash chickpea stew

I feel like it’s late in the game even though we’ve just finished the first week of December. I get that way when it comes to time. I like to plan things out so that I’m not doing stuff at the last minute, not rushing around – because it stresses me out and I’m supposed to reduce my stress in general. I was super happy this week when I woke up and was able to get out of bed without much pain. I thought to myself, “Now I can work on all of those things that need to get done!” And then I looked at the calendar and had a little freak out moment because I lost a week somewhere. Better get crackin’… There is a long list of homemade goodies scrawled out on my notebook because I like to give a sampling of treats. I don’t plan orangettes every year because they are an enormous pain in the ass to make, but I know how much Jeremy loves them and that makes it worth the effort. Plus, he’s so sweet – he washes all of the dishes!

the first phase of making orangettes

The only two people in the world who specifically get Christmas presents from me are my niece and nephew, because they’re kids and because my sister celebrated Christmas when she was alive. I used to make something for them every year, but quickly exhausted my paltry sewing and knitting skills and got tired of thoroughly sucking at it, feeling like a bad auntie, and feeling like I let the kids down… let my sister down. These days Jeremy and I try to select thoughtful and/or educational toys as my parents have the fun (and expensive) stuff covered. Well, we try to include fun stuff too! I probably overthink it. I’m sure I do. December does it to me every time.

kaweah is especially attentive when i’m shooting food on the floor

We were sitting in the single digits (Fahrenheit) for a few days straight, but have since bounced back to the balmy 20s, which I love. When we dip into single digits and below, we have to watch Kaweah when we let her out. She wanders into the yard, does her business, stands around sniffing the snow, and then suddenly discovers that her paws are freezing cold and gets stuck. Luckily for her, Jeremy is standing by ready to run out into the snow, pick her up, and bring her back into the warm house. So yeah, we’re glad it has warmed up a little. 20s are my perfect temperature for backcountry and resort skiing. 20s are also tolerable for standing around outside waiting for things like sunset, sunrise, or total lunar eclipses. You’re gonna catch the lunar eclipse this Saturday, aren’t you?

snow dunes on the frozen reservoir

they could easily be sand dunes

So there’s this Moroccan stew that I wanted so badly to love, but wasn’t sure I would. I like to incorporate squashes into our menu come autumn because they’re local, good for you, and beautiful. [Spaghetti squash scares the hell out of me, though. I fear for my fingers trying to cut those in half.] It’s a good thing butternut squash doesn’t spoil quickly because it took me forever to get a final ingredient: preserved lemons. My local Whole Foods used to have them at the olive bar and the day I bought the butternut squash THEY WERE OUT. I checked back the following week. Nope. I tried Cured. No dice. I finally tried Peppercorn and paid an arm and a leg for a jar (then I found out that Savory Spice Shop carries them too – doh!). But at long last, I could make this recipe.

butternut squash, potatoes, onion, tomatoes, olives, garlic, chickpeas, preserved lemons

minced garlic, diced onions, spices, butter, olive oil

sauté the onions, garlic, and spices in the oil and butter

When peeling and dicing butternut squash, please be careful. It’s not nearly as insanely hard as a spaghetti squash, but the potential for injury is there. I use a potato peeler to remove the skin, then slice it in half and scoop out the guts. If you’re good and you do all of your mise en place ahead of time, this is a fast dinner to throw together. I was surprised at how little stove time it required.

diced potatoes, squash, tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, saffron

add the potatoes and squash to the sautéed onions and garlic

pour everything in except the preserved lemon and olives

You can use chicken broth or if you want to make it vegetarian, use vegetable broth. While the pot is simmering, dice up the preserved lemon. Some folks remove the pulp from the preserved lemon and only use the peel. I use it all. Especially after making my own preserved lemon when I got tired of searching for it (I’ll post that next), I’m not going to waste it! You can of course, omit the preserved lemon, but I’m rather biased because I think I’m addicted to the stuff.

dice the preserved lemon

add the lemon and olives when the squash is soft

Now Deb served her stew over little couscous, but part of my motivation for making this recipe was so I could serve it over Israeli couscous, because I’m a little obsessed with it. Okay, I’m a lot obsessed with it. I just like how the chewy little pearls of pasta roll around in my mouth and have a satisfyingly substantial bite. So I boiled a few cups of Israeli couscous. I have heard you can steam it too – but I’m a lazy bum… recurring theme, I know.

stew, couscous, cilantro, plain yogurt, toasted almonds, hot sauce

ladle some stew over the couscous

The stew itself is great. Despite how badly I wanted to like it, I think I ended up liking this dish far more than I had hoped I would! However, the extras – the cilantro, plain yogurt, hot sauce (I used Tabasco), and almonds – they really brought it to perfection for me. It’s all gone, but I cannot wait to make it again. I think next time I’ll omit the potatoes (they really didn’t add much for me) and increase the chickpeas. It’s a hearty, warming meal that makes great leftovers (I know this, because I ate most of the leftovers). I didn’t think Jeremy would take to it, but he surprised me and went back for seconds.

garnish with the goodies and enjoy!

Moroccan Butternut Squash Chickpea Stew
[print recipe]
from Smitten Kitchen

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced (it was supposed to be sliced, but I got a little mince happy)
2 tsps ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick, about 3-inches long
black pepper, freshly ground
1 lb. butternut squash, large dice
3/4 lb. red potatoes, large dice (I used yukon golds, but I’m omitting the potatoes from now on)
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
14 oz. diced tomatoes, with juices
pinch saffron threads (optional)
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 cup brined green olives (I loooove the Castelvetrano olives – buttery, bright green)
cooked couscous (I like Israeli couscous, but use what you like – about 2 cups uncooked)
fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
toasted slivered almonds (for garnish)
plain yogurt (for garnish – I used Greek nonfat yogurt)
hot sauce of your choice (for serving)

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large and deep heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium flame. When hot, add onions, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon. Sauté until the onions are translucent (~5 minutes). Stir in the butternut squash and the potatoes (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir to coat. Cook until tender – about 3 minutes (it took me 5 minutes) and then add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, and saffron. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid for about 10 minutes until the squash is fork-tender. Remove the pot from the burner and stir in the chopped preserved lemon and the olives. Ladle the stew over cooked couscous and garnish with cilantro, toasted almonds, plain yogurt, and hot sauce. Serves 6 to 8.

24 nibbles at “every december”

  1. Lydia McD says:

    Okay, that looks flat-out amazing. I am so envious of Jeremy and feel a whole lot like Kaweah right now, seeing this beautiful dish and unable to eat it. Great job. Am reposting on twitter as ForkYes . . .

  2. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    This dish looks like autumn – beautiful colours. Really like the water that could be sand dunes too – great observation.

  3. Karen says:

    That looks delicious, with many of my favorite winter ingredients! I preserved some lemons this summer, and have been trying to figure out what to do with them. I knew an idea would come along!

    For spaghetti squash, I just stick the whole thing in the oven at 350 until it’s done, usually around 30-40 minutes. Then it’s easy to cut and scrape out. Once I learned that trick, I started eating a whole lot more winter squash!

  4. Julia says:

    Looks great and kind of reminds me of a David Lebovitz for which I purchased all the ingredients and never got going. FYI–I’m fairly certain that Alfalfa’s carried preserved lemons in its olive bar if you need any right away. I brought some that I made to a Boulder food swap and almost nobody was interested. Tigress in a Pickle has a fantastic recipe for some strongly-spiced Indian preserved lemons. So delicious.

  5. Nicola says:

    Hi, Jennifer. I eat a lot of such foods as these but haven’t tried adding preserved lemon. I shall do so next time I make anything like this. If you want to vary the flavours occasionally to give you several dishes from the one, I can highly recommend adding cumin seeds in with the onions just before they finish to get some toasting on them, and another time, using smoked paprika when the onions are cooked and before you add the vegetables. Both give the dish another dimension and round out the Middle Eastern palate. I use both together sometimes!

  6. Kristin says:

    Those olives are gorgeous! Looks delicious, but my family wouldn’t eat it. I need to form a “My family won’t eat this” cooking club. And I’m right there with you on the freak. I’ve been longing for simpler holidays…it might happen this year out of necessity.

  7. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    This sounds wonderful. The olives sound interesting, but I can’t knock it until I try it!…and boy, am I going to try it :)

  8. stephanie says:

    in the last photo, it looks like you topped it with an sunny-side-up egg. is it an egg, or just the yogurt and hot sauce? either way the dish look delicious and will help me cook up more of my CSA squash.

  9. carol says:

    Just what I was looking for!!! I may sub a sweet potato for the Yukon- because I have them…. My jar of preserved lemons made last spring just waiting for such a treat! I’m with you on using the pulp also!

  10. Christine says:

    YES on the Castelvetrano olives. I made a braised chicken dish with the same olives and homemade preserved lemons… And with my glut of lemons and there being only so many chicken dishes a girl can eat this looks absolutely perfect! Thank you! All I need to buy is some more olives (they don’t last long in my house) and chickpeas.

  11. Kel says:

    I am looking forward to the eclipse and wish I knew how you took such lovely pictures of the night sky!

  12. Amanda says:

    yum yum, we love Moroccan dishes over at The Hot Plate! We’ve been whipping up lots of tagines using chicken, etc. now that the weather is cooling down. Here’s a look at a favourite, our Apricot Chicken Tagine ( Do you ever put Harissa on for an added kick?

  13. raquel says:

    This is a healthy recipe, one that I am looking for, I am collecting vegetable recipe for my family. thanks

  14. Kelly says:

    This looks amazing! And I even have preserved lemons at hand already, after having made a friend bring them over to Germany from England (only to learn afterward that I could have just gotten them at the Turkish grocery store in town). Can’t wait to try this.

  15. Savorique says:

    Thanks for this recipe. I’m always looking for ideas to cook chickpea in a tasty way. And I think if one can’t find the butternut squash, sweet potato seems like a nice substitute.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    For spaghetti squash, don’t cut it until it’s cooked. I poke holes in them with a skewer, then microwave for 5-10 minutes in a dish with some water. Once it’s soft you can easily cut and seed it. Oh, and then try this gem:

  17. Margie says:

    Oh my goodness, what is not to love about this dish; it sounds like the perfect dish for a wintry day! Now, I must grab some lemons and get preserving…

  18. Diana Banana says:

    i make a stew similar to this with chicken, add in some ground ginger with the spices. the leftovers really have that “umami” that makes it so good! you should try tossing in a handful of golden raisins in here too. i’ve heard of moroccan mamas putting in diced dried apricots too. and i would definitely not skip the preserved lemon! it adds this beautiful, rich, almost floral bouquet to the dish!

    as for your niece and nephew, try not to sweat the material part of the present so much. they probably appreciate that you send them something every year, regardless of what it is. (and even if they don’t appreciate it now, there’s something intangible in knowing that you think of them.)

  19. jenyu says:

    Lydia – thanks. It’s a great dish – I love it!!

    Sally – it tastes like autumn too :)

    Karen – awww, yeah! I love that folks are looking for what to do with their preserved lemons. I can’t wait to start using them in like… everything. Thanks for the spaghetti squash tip!

    Julia – bummer, I didn’t check there. I usually run out of patience after hitting two locations, but I’ll keep it in mind.

    Nicola – sounds lovely – thanks!

    Kristin – you poor thing, I think you should declare 1 night a week a “free for all” and then you get to eat what YOU want!

    Katrina – be sure to pick an olive that you like. Those buttery bright green ones are my favorite!

    stephanie – It’s the yogurt and hot sauce.

    carol – sweet potato sounds good too!

    Christine – mmm, that sounds amazing. Thanks for the suggestion – I’m writing all of these down :)

    Kel – there’s a lot of trial and a lot more error :)

    Amanda – if I had it, yes, I would!

    raquel – you’re welcome.

    Kelly – oh wow, I do things like that too (the looking all over for something only to learn I could have gotten it nearby).

    Savorique – I love chickpeas too. They’re so good in this stew!

    Elizabeth – thanks for the advice!

    Margie – totally worth preserving your own!

    Diana – mmm, sounds lovely. Thanks.

  20. Amy Q says:

    Today I really, really, really wanted that stew. So I packed up all the ingredients and threw them in my crockpot at work, with bulgar to boot. Will let you know how that turns out. Also plan to throw in some dried apricots at the end for sweet hit to compensate for no lemon. Sure do wish I had those pretty green olives!

  21. Preserved Lemon & 10 Ways To Use It | Care2 Healthy Living says:

    […] Epicurious 6. Moroccan Meatballs With Preserved Lemon from From Kirsten’s Kitchen to Yours 7. Moroccan Butternut Squash Chickpea Stew from Use Real Butter 8. Chicken & Green Olive Tagine from From Kirsten’s Kitchen to Yours […]

  22. Share » Just another Banoosh site » Preserved Lemon & 10 Ways To Use It says:

    […] via Epicurious 6. Moroccan Meatballs With Preserved Lemon from From Kirsten’s Kitchen to Yours 7. Moroccan Butternut Squash Chickpea Stew from Use Real Butter 8. Chicken & Green Olive Tagine from From Kirsten’s Kitchen to Yours 9. […]

  23. Preserved Lemons - The Petit Gourmet says:

    […] Moroccan Butternut Squash Chickpea Stew from Use Real Butter […]

  24. Annie says:

    I made a big double batch for dinner tonight. It is so good! A big hit with everyone. Adding a small amount of smoked harissa to the adult bowls gave it a nice kick too!

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