Chickpea Tagine

Last night we had chickpea tagine. I’ve been wanting to do a tagine but I don’t have a tagine cook pot, and I just can’t justify buying one. Every time I look at one I can hear the Hubs nagging in the back of my mind, so I’ve never bought one. This recipe lets you cook a tagine in a regular pot so I jumped at the chance to cook it. I’ve adapted the recipe from Amy Chaplin.

She calls for a butternut squash but I couldn’t find one since spring is upon us. So I opted to use an acorn squash instead. I thought it would be fine because an acorn squash is small enough for the three of us.

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You can see how it gets its name. Acorn squash is a winter squash and is VERY similar to a butternut squash and pumpkin. You can roast or bake it and they’re good in stews and soups. And like carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash the acorn squash has beta carotene. That’s what gives the squash its yellow/orange color. Just like with a butternut squash you’ll slice it open, but be careful. I find that squash is hard to initially get your knife in and then slice it. Make sure all of your fingers are safely out of the way when you slice it open.

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Scoop out all the insides, slice the skin off, cut the flesh into cubes, drizzle olive oil on them with some salt and pepper and roast them for half an hour.

While the squash is roasting, I went ahead and chopped up all of the vegetables. I also had a can of chickpeas. I just couldn’t be bothered starting out with dried ones and letting them soak all day. Yes I’m a bit lazy. The canned chickpeas worked just fine. When she calls for 2 cups of the chickpea cooking water, just use 2 cups of water.

The recipe does call for the stalks of parsley to be mixed in. Parsley is one thing that’s on my no-no list. What better way to reintroduce it than with a delicious dish? You chop up the stalks and save the leaves for later. You’ll find that with most herbs you can eat the stalks. I just wouldn’t do it with rosemary because those are a bit woody. In fact, you can use rosemary stalks as a type of toothpick for some dishes to add extra flavor. I can’t remember what I did but I did a roll of some kind and used rosemary stalks as a toothpick to hold them together.

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Most people will think of parsley as the little green stuff that’s on the side of your dish as a “decoration” at restaurants. That’s what I thought when I was younger. Once your plate comes out, you automatically push it to the side. As I got older and started cooking, I found that the little green stuff adds a bit of a peppery flavor to your dish. I find that Italian parsley has a different and stronger flavor than regular parsley, and the leaves of Italian parsley are broader or more flat.

This is what my Flavor Thesaurus says:

Parsley’s fresh, green, woody notes are described as “generic” by Harold McGee, which is, according to him, why the herb complements so many foods. It is as its best with briny ingredients, especially ham and all types of fish, to which it brings a welcome coolness, and a bitterness that offsets the salt-sweetness in meat. Its generic herbal flavor also makes it great for mixing with other herbs. The flat-leaf variety usually has a stronger flavor and leaves that are more tender than those of curly parsley.

Parsley amazingly has vitamin K, C, A, and is also a good source of folate and iron. Who knew that a little bitty green thing that’s usually pushed off to the side of our dish has so many nutrients?

Once you saute your vegetables and mix in the spices, parsley, acorn squash, and crushed tomatoes you let it simmer for a while. I ended up adding salt and pepper to taste. I let my pot simmer until the carrots were cooked through. When it’s done you can serve it with whatever you want. You can serve it a la tapas like she does in her recipe, with rice, or with quinoa. I servedours with quinoa. You’ll also notice that I left out the harissa. Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste. I’m WAY too chicken to try it. Besides, it’s hard to find here in town but the Hubs picked up a few jars when we were back in the U.K. You’ll chop up the leaves of the rest of the parsley that you had, and sprinkle that on top of your dish and then serve it.

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The dish was easy to make and I was done in an hour, which includes the acorn squash roasting time. I didn’t actually start working on anything else until 4:30 and was done by 5. It was really good and the little one ended up eating 1.5 bowls of the stuff! We finished his first bowl and then he said “more!” Unfortunately I felt a bit spacey an hour after dinner (which is due to the parsley), but it was good. If I make this again, I’ll definitely leave out the parsley and maybe add some harissa in to the Hubs’ dish.

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