While we ordinarily maintain a reasonable diet, every person (other than Victoria Beckham) has a limited supply of willpower. Sometimes we say “si!” to the giant can of Que Bueno at Costco, crush a pile of our favorite mortadella, and celebrate National Cheeseburger Day. (It’s a real holiday, people.)
Whenever we’ve been truly disgusting (the time we made Brillat-Savarin panini comes to mind) or just feeling out of sorts, we’re compelled to hit the reset button. Some people might do this by going short-term Paleo, eschewing carbs for a week, or sentencing themselves to a juice cleanse, but given that our last attempt at a 3-day juice cleanse involved incessant whining and quitting after only 24 hours, deprivation is plainly not our thing.
We prefer to start over by eating (yes, EATING) something intensely nourishing and restorative. To us, this could mean only one thing: Moroccan Vegetable Tajine, a vegan stew loaded with colorful vegetables and beneficial spices like cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger that all come together into a glorious pile of goop that tastes far more decadent than it really is. This dish is not for everyone — it’s spicy, the vegetables are mushy, the color is kind of weird, and sweetness in savory dishes freaks some people out — but we have been OBSESSED since first bite. It’s also exceedingly practical, as it freezes and reheats well and makes for wonderful table food for older infants and toddlers if you go easy on the heat. (We cut the cayenne to 1/4 tsp. and the Little Lady enjoyed every last bite. OF VEGETABLES.)
P&V’s Moroccan Vegetable Tajine
Inspired by the Tajine of Vegetables formerly served at Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo, where we first tasted this dish a decade ago. We have been cooking it regularly (and tinkering with the recipe) ever year since.
- 3 tbsp. Canola oil (*Try* to resist the temptation to grab for your trusty cruet of olive oil, which P&V believes is too strongly-flavored for this dish.)
- 1 lb. butternut squash (or other hard squash, like pumpkin or acorn squash), peeled and seeded, cut into approximately 1 in. cubes
- 1/2 lb. carrots, cut into approximately 1 in. cubes
- 1 lb. assorted soft squash (zucchini, yellow crookneck or any other soft-fleshed squash), cut into approximately 1 in. cubes
- 6 baby red potatoes, quartered
- 14 oz. chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 cup dried plums (the fruit formerly known as prunes)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. ginger, freshly grated
- 1/2 tsp. saffron
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- Salt, to taste
- 2 1/4 cups water
Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other deep-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until it softens and becomes light golden brown (about 5-7 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until aromatic (about 1 minute). Add the dry spices. Cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are toasted and thoroughly coat the onions, about 2 minutes.
Add the water, hard squash, carrots, and chickpeas; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are just beginning to get tender (about 15 minutes).
Add the potatoes, soft squash and dried plums, and simmer until the vegetables are tender (about 25-30 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To note, our favorite way to enjoy this tajine is with a dollop of Greek yogurt blended with harissa paste (one of P&V’s preferred spicy condiments) and a few triangles of warmed flatbread. (Which we KNOW means this meal is no longer vegan but it’s SO good.)