Here in California and in much of the country, we’re still in the throes of cold and stormy weather. If you ask me, the perfect way to combat the cold is to enjoy a warming bowl of stew or soup. Brimming with the bold flavors of harissa, preserved lemons, olives, and a wide assortment of spices, this Moroccan-Spiced Stew is the perfect winter meal!
Last Spring, I was lucky enough to have an overabundance of Meyer lemons growing in my garden. I decided to try my hand at making preserved lemons, which is a traditional ingredient used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking. Essentially, preserved lemons are lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. The simple preserving process involves quartering the lemons, rubbing them with salt, then packing them into jars. I used this recipe from Nourished Kitchen as a general guideline. The most important ingredient is patience, since the lemons need to ferment at room temperature for about a month.
Lemons are always one of my favorite ingredients to use, but preserving them really amps up their flavor to another level. The sourness of the lemons becomes more mellow during the fermentation process. You can use the peels in their entirety because they soften during the preservation process. Thus, the citrus oils found in the lemon peels provide an explosion of complex flavors. While I have experimented with using preserved lemons in sweet applications, they really shine when used in more traditional applications such as this Moroccan-spiced stew.
An extensive use of spices is a hallmark of Moroccan cuisine. In fact, the famed Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout is said to contain twenty-seven different spices. Spices such as cinnamon, cumin, ginger, and turmeric make an appearance here in this rich and warming Moroccan-spiced stew. Moroccan stews, also called tagines, typically contain meat, but here garbanzo beans and cauliflower take center stage and create a hearty base that lets the variety of spices truly shine.
This recipe makes extensive use of the spices and condiments typical of Moroccan cuisine. Moroccan stews, also called tagines, usually contain meat, but here garbanzo beans and cauliflower take center stage. Searing the cauliflower at the beginning of cooking may seem like an unnecessary step, but it actually provides a lot of extra flavor and texture to the entire meal.
- ¼ cup coconut oil, divided
- 1 medium head cauliflower, chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 1 tsp sea salt, divided
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp ginger
- ½ tsp sumac
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded, and roughly chopped (see note)
- ½ cup green olives, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup harissa
- 1 medium lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot
- 2 Tbsp water
- ½ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
- ½ bunch cilantro, chopped
- In a large dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add cauliflower and sear until golden and crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue searing until all sides are crisped. When finished, place in a medium bowl and reserve.
- Over medium heat, melt remaining 2 Tbsp oil in dutch oven. Add onion, celery, carrots, and ½ tsp of the salt and stir well to combine. Cover, reduce heat, and cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add spices and remaining ½ tsp salt. Stir well and cook over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, reserved cauliflower, and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add garbanzo beans, preserved lemon, green olives, harissa, lemon zest, and lemon juice and stir well to combine. Cook on medium heat until heated through, about 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk arrowroot and water to create a slurry. Stir into the stew and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in parsley and cilantro until well combined.
Preserved lemons can generally be found in specialty markets and some grocery stores. If you have trouble finding them, you can substitute the zest and juice of one additional lemon.