We’re in the depths of winter now and nothing is growing in our northern climate at the moment. If you’re looking to eat in season here, the name of the game is root vegetables.
I’m not sure about you, but root vegetables as theme ingredients fail to excite me; they’re about the most unsexy vegetables around. To get into the root groove, I needed some cooking inspiration. And who better to consult than local cook, author and seasonal food advocate Beth Dooley?
Beth Dooley has been cooking locally and seasonally and writing about it for decades now, long before it became the cool thing to do. The first seasonal cooking book that I ever bought was Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland, a book that Beth co-authored with local chef Lucia Watson, whose restaurant was one of the first in Minnesota to focus on a local, seasonal way of eating. In addition to her cookbooks, Beth writes regularly for the Star Tribune, Edible Twin Cities, the regional coop newsletter The Mix and other publications. In short, Beth knows her stuff.
I bought Beth’s newest book, The Northern Heartland Kitchen, on impulse one day earlier this fall at my local food coop.
I was drawn to it because not only is it organized by season, it highlights Minnesota-sourced ingredients and food producers and offers a wealth of tips about eating locally. I also really liked that each recipe suggested other accompanying dishes to round out the meal – a great help for meal planning. This cookbook is an ode to eating well in Minnesota and an excellent resource for anyone looking to eat more locally and seasonally in the Upper Midwest.
Perusing the book for a Meatless Monday dinner option, I skipped right to the recipe that dials root vegetables up to 11, a Moroccan-inspired winter vegetable tagine with charmoula.
What’s a tagine (and charmoula, for that matter)? Tagines (also spelled “tajines”) are slow-simmered stews braised at low temperatures, traditionally cooked in a special earthenware clay pot. Charmoula (or “chermoula”) is a North African marinade or green sauce comprised of fresh herbs, garlic, oil, lemon juice and salt.
Don’t be intimidated by this dish’s foreignness or the long list of ingredients – it’s really just root vegetables and chickpeas braised in a wonderfully spicy blend of flavors and served atop couscous, a very quick side dish to make. You don’t need a special tagine pot; you can prepare the recipe in a Dutch oven or a deep skillet with cover. Don’t have a mortar and pestle? You can use a fork or spoon and bowl to mash up the garlic and herbs.
If you’re looking for something to wake up your taste buds and take them on a brief exotic vacation during a blustery winter night, this is the dish for you. And it’s much cheaper than a plane ticket to Morocco.
- 2 T. olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. ground red chili or hot paprika
- ½ tsp. coriander
- 1 T. tomato paste
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup vodka or white wine
- 1 whole jalapeno with seeds, sliced in half
- Salt and pepper
- 4-5 small new potatoes, cut into 2-in. pieces
- 2 cups cubed winter squash, sweet potatoes or both
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed
- Moroccan Green Sauce (Charmoula):
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¾ cup chopped cilantro
- ¾ cup chopped parsley
- 2 tsp. sweet paprika
- ½ tsp. cumin
- ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 2 large lemons, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups water
- ½ tsp. salt (optional)
- 2 tsp. butter (optional)
- 2 cups uncooked couscous
- To make the tagine: In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil; add onions, shallots, garlic, cumin, chili and coriander; and saute briefly until they are fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and continue cooking until the mixture just begins to brown. Stir in the vegetable broth, vodka/wine and jalapeno and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and add the red potatoes and squash/sweet potatoes. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the Moroccan green sauce: using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the salt until it forms a smooth paste. Add cilantro and parsley and pound enough to bruise the leaves and release their flavor. Stir in the paprika, cumin, cayenne, oil and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Prepare the couscous: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, salt and butter and bring to a boil. Add couscous, stir quickly, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.
- Once the root vegetables are tender, toss in the chickpeas and cook until they are warmed through.
- Serve the tagine over couscous and drizzle with Moroccan green sauce.
Do you own either of Beth’s Dooley cookbooks – Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland or The Northern Heartland Kitchen? Which recipes have you made?