Harissa Holiday

It's beginning to feel a lot like vacation!

Chris and I depart tomorrow -- Morocco here we come! I cannot wait for our culinary adventure of North Africa to begin!

We went to a local, authentic Moroccan restaurant this weekend for a preview of what's to come and well, are we in for a treat! Sweet, smoky spices, briny olives, bowls of nutty couscous, falling-off the bone lamb, succulent seafood, glasses of hot mint tea with honey--and bright red dollops of the spicy/salty traditional condiment, harissa.

To keep us in the mood (and because I received one last CSA box that I wasn't expecting) I decided to make a lovely Moroccan stew with beets, radishes, buttercup squash, potatoes, yams, lemon, chickpeas and raisins.
CSA Bliss: Check out that giant china rose radish, the red beets and buttercup squash!
I typed in "beets, radish, squash" into my search engine and this recipe for a Moroccan-style stew popped up, so I used it as my starting point and then tweaked it. Instead of preserved lemons, I halved and seeded about three large lemons and cooked everything using my slow-cooker (set to 6 hours), adding the chickpeas during the last hour of cooking. I also added potatoes and yams to the ingredients, since I wanted a heartier version. The beets and harissa turned everything a lovely reddish-orange color, perfect for the holidays! (Don't worry, the beet stains on your hands will go away when you do the dishes.)

Chris declared it delicious and I had to agree -- it was tasty. We drank a lovely, dry Riesling to accompany it. Yum and yum.

Hearty Harissa Stew
1 (1 1/2-pound) buttercup or butternut squash
1 pound radishes (2 large china rose variety, otherwise use about 2 bunches regular)
4 large potatoes
2 large yams
1 pound beets (about 3 large)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon paprika (I like smoked)
2 teaspoon garlic powder
5 TBS harissa
2 TBS honey
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup raisins (golden or regular)
3 large lemons, halved and seeded, plus the zest from 1 lemon
1 (15-ounce can) chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups couscous
3/4 cup squash seeds, toasted
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

To Do:

  • Peel, halve, and remove the seeds from the squash, reserving 3/4 cup of seeds for later. Chop into large chunks. Place in bottom of slow cooker crock.
  • Remove stem from radishes (peel if needed) and chop into medium-size chunks. Place in slow cooker.
  • Peel and chop potato, yam and beets into medium sized chunks and add to pot. (Do beets last or your cutting board/knife will stain everything else red.)
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add onion, garlic and shallot, stirring until tender. Add to them, the salt, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, harissa and honey and heat through, then transfer to slow cooker.
  • Add the chicken stock, raisins and lemons and 1/2 the zest to the slow cooker pot and stir gently to combine everything.
  • Set slow cooker to 6 hour setting.
  • After 5 hours, stir in the chickpeas.
  • When you have 30 minutes left, chop the cilantro. Also, clean the squash seeds and then toast in a pan until browned/popping. Make the couscous according to the package directions. (I toast my couscous in olive oil, stirring it in the pot until it browned, and then cook it -- makes a big difference.)
  • When the slow cooker turns off, scoop a few spoonfuls into a small bowl and test the seasonings. You may want to add a bit more salt and/or spices. Also, be sure to remove the lemons.
  • To serve: Place a mound of couscous in the middle of a large bowl. Top with the stewed veggies and sprinkle with seeds, the remaining zest and the cilantro. 


May your holidays be filled with good food, family, friends and fun!
I'll return to cookery in January.