squash & chickpea stew

This Moroccan recipe was inspired by one from The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane. This cookbook has a host of delicious recipes and represents a part of Morocco many people don’t know about – its Jewish heritage. I was amazed, upon arriving in my village in the deep rural Moroccan south, that the local landmark people were most eager to tell me about was an enormous and ancient Jewish shrine – to which pilgrims still journey each year.

This is a great winter stew – it’s hearty without being too heavy and has everything you need in one dish. It tends to be on the sweet side of things – caramelized onions, roasted squash, cinnamon, raisins soaked in saffron and honey – so if it’s too much try using less sugar and cooking your chickpeas in a broth instead of just water.

Pretty enough to eat

Ingredients include:

1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of saffron threads
1/2 cup raisins
Salt, pepper, and cumin to taste
Several tablespoons of honey

Don't forget to toast and salt the seeds so you can snack on them while you cook...

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, arrange the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.

Place the chickpeas in a pot and cover them with at least 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and let them simmer for about 45 minutes. I like to think of chickpeas as pasta – cook them till they have an al dente type consistency. When they’re done, drain them.

Plump the raisins in warm water, a tablespoon of honey, and the saffron. The best way to release the flavor of saffron is to rub the threads in between your thumb and index finger with a pinch of salt, then let it soak in the raisin water for at least 15 minutes.

Add the onions to a skillet with the remaining olive oil and butter and saute them on medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and cinnamon, decrease the heat to medium and cook till the onions brown (20 to 25 minutes)

Add raisins and season to taste with salt, pepper, and cumin

In a large serving bowl, layer the chickpeas on the bottom, followed by the squash, followed by the onion mixture, then top it off with almonds.

Jewish shrine near the Anti-Atlas mountains
Jewish shrine near the Anti-Atlas mountains

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