Moroccan Stew

It’s a shame, but I’ve never been to Morocco. I don’t even know what real Morocco looks like; when not being photographed for tourists or by half dreaming expatriates, what is left of everyday life, I wonder. It has become an idealized, exoticized locale in the Western mind that captures the imagination of young people bored by their suburban surroundings. You might think this mythification started in the sixties, but I suspect it goes back even earlier than that. I envision Romantic poets, those British literary precursors to the rock deities of the mid 20th century, smoking hashish and taking laudanum on plush carpets there. This Moroccan stew is a satisfying spring supper. It’s light enough to make you feel virtuous, but hearty and delicious, especially when served over a grain. I recommend infusing brown rice with a large pinch of cayenne to create a spicy bed on which to ladle this sweetly aromatic dish. The Ras El Hanout is a spice blend that I found at the Hannaford in Topsham, so you should be able to find it just about anywhere. If you can’t find it, combine cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, and black pepper.

Moroccan Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 small butternut squash, split, seeds and fibers removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 very small zucchinis, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 16 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Ras el hanout
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • Greek yogurt and parsley, for garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for thirty minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil over medium low heat in a large Dutch oven. Add onions, peppers, zuchini, and garlic, and sautee until onions are transluscent and shiny. Add chick peas, tomatoes, broth, apricots, and Ras el hanout. When squash is roasted remove the flesh and cut into chunks; stir them into the pot. Turn down the heat, cover and cook for an hour. Remove lid and simmer for another half an hour, until the squash has broken down and the stew is a thick consistency. Ladle over couscous or brown rice spiced with cayenne. Add a dollop on Greek yogurt and a bit of chopped parsley to garnish.

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road. She creates content on the internet, on subjects ranging from summer camps to semi-precious stones to the folklore of food. With Malcolm, Jillian was one of the original “Insiders,” for the Visit Maine tourism campaign. She loves telling the stories of her adopted state, finding out-of-the-way places, and people making interesting things. Watching her daughters play in the wild woods and fields of Cushing makes her very happy.

2 Comments

  1. I visited Agadir, Essaouira, Tafraout, and Taroudant (all in the south) in the late 90s. It’s a Mediterranean climate, essentially, and driving up the coast of Morocco is akin to popping up CA 1 between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. That is, if you got rid of the comforting weight of infrastructure and replaced it with an overwhelming sense of alien solitude.

    I was a vegan at the time, so my memories of eating are colored by that. I remember fresh orange juice and rough smida bread in the mornings, a souk filled with olives and masses of spices, vegetable tajines long simmered.

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  2. My spouse & i visited Morocco with Moroccan family many years ago – from Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, then down to Marrakesh. We mostly stayed with family in Mohammedia, on the coast. Life was delicious, to say the least. i, too, have been romanticized by visions of Morocco since i was young but staying with Muslims takes away that hazy sense of “Turkish Delight” and instead replaced it, for me, with an amazing sense of being cradled by the ‘motherly’ and woman-centered presence in a household. But Morocco is sensory overload – smells (both pleasant and unpleasant; you are very physically close to people there), sights, tastes – i fear it as much as i love it. Go. and welcome to Portland.

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