Winter squash, chickpea, and lentil stew (4 servings)

sq+ck+lentil.jpg

I'm not a big specialty appliance/gadget girl. For the most part, I prefer to cook using basic equipment and techniques. However, one appliance I couldn't live without is my Crock Pot. It's so nice to be able to throw everything into the slow cooker and forget about it for a few hours. Eventually, the enticing aromas hit your nose, and you think, "What is that?" and then happily realize it's dinner, and dinner is almost ready.

I found this recipe a few days ago on Food.com and figured it would be a great way to use up some carrots from the fridge and a can of beans from the pantry. According to the recipe, the flavors are inspired by the cuisine of North Africa, although my version was less authentic, as I didn't have any saffron and chose to skip the cilantro. The author of the original recipe soaked and cooked dried chickpeas, but my directions use canned beans. Refer to the original if you want to use dried beans.

You will need:

  • 2-3 cups cubed butternut squash (I used two 10-oz bags of frozen cubed squash)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped (I'm ashamed to admit I didn't have an onion on hand!)
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • pinch of saffron (skipped)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 15-oz can chickpeas
  • 1 lime, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped (I used cashews instead)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (I used some dried parsley)

Steps:

  1. Place all ingredients up through the salt into a slow cooker. Turn it to low and allow it to cook for 5 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and stir them into the stew. Cover and cook on low for another hour.
  3. Check to make sure the lentils are tender; if not, allow the stew to cook a bit longer. Ladle the stew into four bowls. Top individual servings with a squeeze of lime juice, a handful of peanuts/cashews, and some cilantro/parsley.

It doesn't get much easier than that! If you plan to have a leftover portion or two, don't put the toppings on until you're ready to eat that portion. I think the cashews would get soggy and the zing of the lime would fade if you added the toppings too early.

I like that the squash broke down during the cooking, because it helped make the stew thicker. If you want distinct chunks of squash, I suppose you could add it in during the last hour when you mix in the chickpeas. This stew shared many ingredients with another soup I made earlier in the month, but the seasonings were totally different. This was sweet and warm and exotic. I only wish I'd had some saffron, but it's too dang expensive!

The original recipe suggested serving this stew over couscous, but I don't like the idea of soggy couscous. I thought the stew was delicious on its own. With no added oil, the only fat in this recipe comes from the chickpeas and peanuts/cashews.