There is something to be said about being consistent and unrelenting. There are dozens of cliches about applying oneself in order to succeed, but I would argue that most people disregard them (the cliches) with a certain amount of irony. Most of us get up, work, learn, produce, and come home to relax or do the chores that are necessary. In my experience cooking fits in all this as a combination of hobby and necessity – but ultimately more the former than latter. Hobby, because one never truly needs to cook an elaborate meal and there are infinite restaurants from which to pick up edibles or sit down in with a friend. Necessity, because if you happen to be on a limited income, eating out every day isn’t the most economically sustainable or responsible thing to do.
Yes, that’s a lot of unnecessary exposition to explain why I haven’t regaled you with any kitchen creations recently, and I expect the same is true for Melissa. But wow does it feel great to get back in the kitchen and make something more challenging than sliced grapefruit or scrambled eggs for breakfast. And it is doubly nice to share (the food and dishes) with friends.
You might recall from long ago that I shared a very simple tagine recipe with just a few ingredients. Here we expand the flavor profile and ingredient list. I admit, the idea stemmed from a desire to adapt the the former recipe for fall and provide an excuse to make use of my new cast iron Dutch oven. This is where the butternut squash comes in – one of those ingredients that for me recalls Thanksgiving, and lends the stew a welcome sweetness. Dates are also included as a perennial wintertime treat. Don’t be put off by the lengthy list below. Requiring only one pot and about an hour of simmering time, it would be hard to go wrong with a dinner so simple.
- 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 3-4 inch piece(s) cinnamon bark
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne, more if you prefer spicy
- 4 bone-in chicken thighs, about 2 lbs
- 14 oz chicken broth
- 15 oz can chickpeas, drained
- 1 medium butternut squash, cubed
- Handful of Greek olives, pitted
- Handful of dates, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 lemon, a few rounds + juice
- Salt to taste
- Splash of olive oil
- Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat with a splash of olive oil. Add onions and stir for 5-10 minutes until cooked through then add garlic and ginger. After 1-2 minutes, add cinnamon bark, cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika and cayenne. Stir with onions for 1 minute. Make room in the pot for the chicken thighs. Sear chicken, turning once or twice for about 8 minutes total. Add chicken broth and strained chickpeas. Bring the pot to a simmer on low, stirring to disperse the onions, chicken and chickpeas. Stir in butternut squash cubes, olives, and chopped dates. Add lemon juice and slices. (Many recipes call for preserved lemons, but I couldn't find these at the local grocery store - cheers if you can!) After 10-15 minutes, taste broth and add up to 1 tsp salt. Simmer with a heavy lid for another 30 minutes. Serve with couscous.