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.
- 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
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.