Now, you see that title and I know what you're thinking - hey, it's March is she really going to write about root vegetables. I'm right aren't I? I mean, I should be writing about asparagus, or rhubarb for example. Well, I'll let you in on my little secret, root vegetables, like rhubarb are another one of those ingredients that I just didn't grow up around. So you see, I'm in my discovery period of all of these great fruits and vegetables loved by les Americaines, but not necessarily the rest of the world.
Now don't go feeling sorry for me missing out on all of this food Americana. Instead of rhubarb, when I was young I feasted on papaya as big as a baby's head and as sweet cotton candy. And, as for root vegetables, there is nothing better than a crisp, yet meltingly tender wedge of deep fried mandioc to go with your decadent 4 hour feijoada. And, so from time to to time I ask you to join me in my excitement over a new fruit, vegetable, cut of meat, or whatever it happens to be even if it may be just a tad out of season. It won't be often. For the most part, I promise to stick to as in season and local as I can get.
After all that you're probably wondering what fabulous meal I came up with to employ those hardworking root vegetables. With all of my family moving more and more toward healthy, heavily vegetable based meals, I wanted to find something that was hearty (hey, it is still in the 40s some days here in the PNW) but light and what I found was a recipe in the October 2010 Bon Appetit wth a few changes to make it my own. Now, don't let the ingredient list scare you away. The recipe is actually very easy and comes together quite quickly.
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 4 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
- 1 preserved lemon
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup tomato juice
- 1 1/4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled carrots
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 Tbls Harissa (optional)
- 1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 1/2 pound turnips (about 3 medium), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
- 1/2 cup brine-cured green olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (I used oil packed), thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 10-ounce box plain couscous (cooked according to package directions)
- Spiced chickpeas, see recipe below
How to cook it
Toast coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds in small skillet over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Cool. Transfer to spice mill; process until finely ground. Transfer to small bowl. Add red pepper, turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Chop preserved lemon.
Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion; sprinkle with salt and sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add toasted spice blend, garlic, and tomato paste; stir 1 minute. Add carrots and celery; stir 2 minutes. Add chopped preserved lemon, 4 cups stock, rutabaga, turnips, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Simmer with lid ajar until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Spoon couscous into large bowl, spreading out to edges and leaving well in center. Spoon vegetable tagine into well in center. Sprinkle Spice-Roasted Chickpeas over and serve.
One of the stars of this show was the Spiced Chickpeas. I had some frozen chickpeas that I had cooked before, so I thawed them and used them for this recipe. These little crispy gems have multiple uses. You may not get your football and beer loving husband to adopt them as Super Bowl snacks but they are quite addictive - you might get him to munch on them while watching golf. Another use for them is to throw them in a salad - crunchy, nutty, a little spicy.
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), well dried (can used canned here as well)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Coarse kosher salt
How to cook it
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toast cumin seeds in small skillet over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Cool. Transfer to spice mill; process until finely ground. Place chickpeas, olive oil, pinch of cayenne, and ground spices in medium bowl. Sprinkle with coarse salt; toss to coat evenly. Transfer to small rimmed baking sheet. Roast in oven until lightly browned and crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes
Even if you don't make the whole tagine, try these little snacks. They are a terrific, crunchy alternative to chips and they're healthy. The best part is that you can use this same method and season them with pretty much anything you like - just chili powder and salt, sounds good to me. How about some taco seasoning, that might be tasty. I'll let you decide.
Oh, and wait, I have one more spring picture to share - now all we need is the weather to go along with these colorful beauties.