When I started this blog last year, I agonized over what to name it. For some reason I knew I wanted the word “chickpea” in there (or cecci or channa), and eventually my buddy Justin came up with “Urban Chickpea” and I loved it. But it took a solid three months of meditating on the word “chickpea” and obnoxiously recruiting my friends for help for me to land there. Based on that experience, it will take me at least 6 years to name my first child. And there’s a 90% chance his/her name will be Chickpea.
And that’s why it’s a total outrage that I haven’t featured a recipe with chickpeas on this blog until today. EVERYBODY CALM DOWN. I’m finally giving you what you want: a healthy, vegan meal starring Chickpea. In addition to looking great holding a fork and a handbag, chickpeas are a great source of protein and extremely high in folate, in addition to being good sources of other minerals like iron and manganese. From a culinary perspective, they are a fantastically versatile legume because of their firm texture and unique shape and they hold up well in a dish like this.
Although the ingredient list looks long, this recipe is super flexible once you understand the basic seasonings. Since it’s October, I used both summer squash and sweet potatoes, but you could sub in other vegetables like eggplant or butternut based on what’s available. The key flavoring agent is Ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice blend that features a number of spices like cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon and gives this dish a warming, perfumed quality. I also added harissa (which I’ve used before in pasta sauce), and the combination of rich spices, slow-cooked vegetables and dried fruits transported me back to a college trip to Marrakesh, where I was first exposed to the sweet-spicy combination that is characteristic of much Moroccan food. (Although truthfully, the most memorable part of the trip was when a street vendor appeared out of nowhere and placed a filthy, 30-lb monkey on my then-boyfriend’s head and said–in what was meant to be the monkey’s voice–“Don’t be afraid….I like you.”)
This tagine can easily stand alone, or you can cook up a whole grain like millet or quinoa to accompany it. I was making this dish to share with a friend who just had a baby, so a large quantity of a refined starch seemed totally necessary. I love the pearled look and tapioca-like chewiness of Israeli couscous, so I experimented with ways to cook up a perfect batch and the results are below. Israeli couscous is also sometimes called Pearl Couscous, although my grocery store has taken to calling it “Middle Eastern Couscous” perhaps to avoid seeming political. Not that it helps to distinguish it from all other couscous…that it also Middle Eastern.
Ahh, chickpea love.
Chickpea and Sweet Potato Tagine with Apricots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (optional)
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon Ras el hanout
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon harissa
pinch of saffron in a couple tablespoons of hot water
1 zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, sliced into half-moons
1 cup water
1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
juice from half of lemon, to taste
1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil. Add cumin seeds, and when they start to sizzle and pop, add onion and saute until soft, 5 minutes.
2. Add carrot and sweet potato and saute 5 more minutes. Then add Ras el hanout, cinnamon stick, harissa and saffron and stir until you can smell the spices, about 30 seconds. Then add the zucchini, chopped tomatoes, chickpeas, apricots, water and salt. Bring up to a boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover. Cook on low until sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes–but the longer the better.
3. Remove from heat and add parsley, cilantro and lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon or salt if necessary. Serve alone or with a cooked whole grain or couscous.
Perfect Israeli Couscous
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous or Middle Eastern couscous)
1 3/4 cups water
pinch of salt
1. In a medium pot, heat oil and add couscous. Stir to toast couscous until you start to smell a toasty scent or until the couscous starts to turn a light golden color, about 2 minutes. Add water and salt, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook 15 minutes.