Monday, September 27, 2010

In the Kitchen :: ...and Dreaming of Morocco

Maybe it was the rain and nasty weather or the fact that signs of Morocco have been popping up all around me of late -- a vacation site email in my inbox yesterday morning, Sunday's NY Times Travel Magazine, featuring mesmerizing Marrakesh.  I couldn't think of anything better than curling up to a bowl of something warm and aromatic, hints of cinnamon, cumin and other spices I'd imagine finding in the markets of a far off, fantastical Moroccan city.  Lacking a proper traditional tagine, I figured a cozy autumn stew in my sturdy Dutch oven was the next best thing.  And though my inclusion of coconut milk brings India and Thailand more to mind, I will definitely say that the spice blend I tossed together conjured up exotic visions of Morocco that made me want to pack my bags and board the next flight out of JFK.  For a bit of faraway inspiration that highlights seasonal ingredients (squash and apple are this stew's star ingredients), the recipe follows.  This is a perfect weeknight dish, made in under 30 minutes.  And the lentils give it a great dose of satisfying fiber while the squash and spices pack lots of antioxidants.  

Squash Curry with Apple & Red Lentils
makes 4 to 6 servings

1 2 to 2 1/2 pound buttercup squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
10 ounces light coconut milk
2 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of cayenne pepper
2 dried red chilies
3/4 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup diced apple
extra apple for garnish, finely diced
creme fraiche or plain yogurt for garnish

In a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven, add the oil and saute the squash and onion about 10 minutes over medium-high heat until lightly browned and semi-soft.  
Add in the coconut milk, broth as well as the lentils, spices, chilies, salt and pepper. 
Lower heat and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in apples with 10 minutes cooking time left.  
Garnish with extra diced apple and a tiny dollop of creme fraiche or plain yogurt if desired.

photos :: me,,,,,

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