As the days grow colder, sturdy vegetables are taking the place of delicate leafy greens and tender tomatoes. In our last CSA box, we received a heavy root vegetable medley: carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, and rutabaga.
I decided to bring these seemingly disparate roots together in the form of a hearty tagine--a North African stew named after the beautiful vessel in which it is traditionally cooked.
The tagine is seasoned with ras el hanout, a spice blend from Northern Africa. The name means "head of the shop" in Arabic, in reference to the blend consisting of the best spices a shop has to offer. I picked up my blend from the spice mecca that is Kalustyan's here in NYC. It's a mixture of coriander, cumin, fennel, allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, anise, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, rose petals, turmeric, and lavender. Simple root vegetables make the perfect canvas for so many bold flavors.
For this tagine, I combine root vegetables, kale, and chickpeas with fresh ginger and turmeric, warming ras el hanout, and spicy cayenne. A good squeeze of lemon juice brightens it up and cuts through the stew. A sprinkle of toasted, slivered almonds adds texture, while fresh parsley completes the dish.
During these divisive times, we can find some rootedness and comfort in coming together to share a warm, hearty meal.
Root Vegetable Tagine
4 cloves garlic
Freshly grated ginger
Freshly grated turmeric (available at some farmers markets and specialty stores; can substitute 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon ras el hanout (available at gourmet stores or online from Kalustyan's)
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large turnip, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large rutabaga, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch kale, ribbed and leaves cut into 1-inch ribbons
1 can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
Juice from 1 lemon
Toasted slivered almonds
Cooked couscous or bread
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with a little salt and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, ras el hanout, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes more.
Add the sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, and stock. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and chickpeas and cook for 10 minutes more, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the lemon juice. Serve topped with slivered, toasted almonds and parsley alongside couscous or bread.