Has this ever happened to you – you have the big holiday meal planned down to the dessert, and then your Aunt Bea calls to let you know that your Cousin Lynn is now a strict vegetarian and is rather upset when she has to eat around the edges of meat-based meals. Now what do you do? Your Passover dinner focuses on brisket or lamb; your planned Easter dinner has a ham centerpiece.
This Moroccan Vegetable Stew is a meal centerpiece in itself. I created it from a combination of similar stews when the caterer for our congregation’s community Passover seder needed to come up with a main dish to serve alongside the roast chicken. We needed a dish to meet both the needs of our several vegetarians, plus the rules of Passover, which in our congregation means no flour, naturally (and thus no pasta), no mixing of milk and meat on the table, and no beans or grains. It also had to be capable of being made ahead, and not too difficult to prepare. A tall order!
The beauty of this stew is that it meets all the criteria and is absolutely delicious. You can also improvise a bit on the vegetables and use what you have at hand, although I recommend keeping the carrots and eggplant. I have substituted green beans, zucchini, and squash for the parsnips with great results. The trick is to cut all the vegetables to about the same size. It cooks in the slow cooker, so it is no fuss. The stew is mysteriously sweet, given that it has no added sugar, and has a little kick to it because of the cayenne pepper. If you want to have a bit less kick, reduce the amount of pepper.
You can serve it over couscous (but not for Passover) or rice, or serve sour cream or yogurt with it to dollop on top (no, not for Passover). I made a big cooker full this morning before I went out for a meeting. When I came home late in the evening, the house smelled sweet and spicy. The weather had turned to a cold rain, but I had a big bowl of this stew to warm me.
So go out, get some vegetables, throw them in the slow cooker, and by the time Cousin Lynn shows up she’ll think you slaved all day to make a special dish for her. But don’t be surprised if all the other relatives polish off bowls of it – at our community seder it is almost more popular than the chicken.
Moroccan Vegetable Stew
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth (about 3 cans)
4 large carrots peeled and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
2½ cups eggplant, peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces (about 1 medium eggplant)
2½ cups parsnips peeled and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
2 cups cauliflower broken into small florets
1 cup diced onion
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) stewed tomatoes (be sure to get the original and not Mexican or Italian)
¾ cup dried currants
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
Pour olive oil into a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring often until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to scorch the garlic. Set aside.
Add broth, carrots, eggplant, parsnips, cauliflower, onion, stewed tomatoes (with juices), currants, salt, and the garlic spice mixture to a slow cooker (at least 5 quart) and stir to combine. I mixed a bit of the broth into the spice mixture so I could scrape every bit of it out of the pan.
Cover slow-cooker and cook on high until vegetables are tender to bite and flavors are blended, 8 to 9 hours. Makes 6 servings (more as a side dish) at about 3 grams of fat/serving.
Variation: Some recipes called for ladling about 3 cups of the vegetable mixture into a blender, holding the lid down with a towel and whirling until smooth. Return purée to slow cooker and stir to blend. This makes a somewhat thicker gravy, but it is not necessary