North African Bean Stew with Winter Squash

This is a healthy and hearty vegetarian stew. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with steamed spinach on the side. I loved that it was loaded with warm spices.

The recipe was adapted from Brooklyn’s Kos Kaffe via The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used farro instead of barley, used canned beans, and increased the amount of garlic. I also reduced the amount water to achieve a thicker consistency. Nice.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Baharat Spice Blend:

  • 1 T sweet paprika
  • 1/2 T ground coriander
  • 1/2 T ground cumin
  • 1/2 T ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice

For the Stew:

  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
  • 2 leeks, white and green parts, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated
  • 1 cup finely diced fennel, fronds reserved (1 medium or 1/2 large fennel bulb)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons baharat spice blend
  • 1 small (or 1/2 large) cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley or farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
  •  large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • 4 cups cooked beans or chickpeas (I used 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (1/2 large or 1 small squash)
  • 3/4 cup peeled and diced turnip (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • plain yogurt, for serving (I used Greek yogurt)
  • aleppo pepper or hot paprika, for serving
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving, optional
  1. Make the baharat spice blend. Set aside.
  2. Cut leeks in half, slice into half moons, and soak in a bowl of water. Drain and finely chop in a food processor.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and cook leeks until they begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. While the leeks cook, finely chop the cilantro stems, fennel and garlic in a food processor.
  5. Stir the cilantro stems into the pot, along with diced fennel and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in baharat, cinnamon and tomato paste, and cook until paste begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in broth, 1 cup water (water can be omitted for a thicker consistency), the barley/farro, and the salt. Bring to a gentle boil, stir in saffron, if using, and reduce heat to medium. (The original recipe uses 3 cups of water- increase for a more soup-like consistency, as desired.)
  8. Simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. (I simmered the stew for 20 minutes because I used par-cooked farro.)
  9. Stir in beans, squash, turnip and lentils; cook until barley/farro and vegetables are tender, about another 30 minutes.
  10. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. Remove cinnamon stick.
  11. Ladle stew into bowls. (I served it over rice.)
  12. Spoon a dollop of yogurt on top and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with cilantro leaves, fennel fronds and Aleppo pepper or paprika, as desired.

Mushroom, Spinach, Barley, & Bacon Soup

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My brother gave me Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” for Christmas- it was on my wish list. To be silly he gave it to me with another cookbook titled “Bacon Nation”! The funniest part of this story is that I tried a recipe from “Bacon Nation” first. 🙂 This soup was ultra-flavorful, hearty, and LOADED with mushrooms. The spinach and carrots gave an otherwise “brown” soup a wonderful pop of color. The house smelled divine as it cooked too! This recipe was adapted from Bacon Nation by Peter Kaminsky & Marie Rama.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I used nitrate-free)
  • 2 medium-size onions, finely chopped
  • 24 oz cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 10 oz white button mushrooms,  wiped clean, stems trimmed, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • .88 oz mixed dried wild mushrooms (including porcini, shiitake, black, & oyster mushrooms)
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T dry sherry, divided
  • 8 cups stock (I used 4 cups homemade Turkey Stock, and 4 cups boxed chicken stock)
  • 4 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl barley (I used par-cooked barley from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 6 oz baby spinach

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  1. Cook the bacon in a soup pot or large saucepan over medium heat until browned but not too crisp and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary.
  2. Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the fresh and dried mushrooms and the garlic and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. IMG_7324
  4. Add 6 T of the sherry and let boil for about 1 minute to reduce the liquid slightly.
  5. Stir in the stock, carrots, barley, bay leaf, and 3 cups water. Cover the pot and let the soup come to a boil. Then, reduce the heat as necessary and let the soup simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the barley is barely tender, 35 to 40 minutes for standard barley, 15-20 minutes for par-cooked barley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add the thyme and the remaining 6 T sherry and let simmer until the flavors blend, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the spinach, increase the heat to high, cover the pot, and cook the spinach until just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove and discard the bay leaf before serving the soup.

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