Monday, November 01, 2010

pumpkin for halloween. or squash, whatever.

Other than the bag of mini-Kit Kats and a showing of Psycho at Film Forum on Friday night, Halloween passed in our household without much notice. We are fairly party pooper-ish about Halloween, due mostly to laziness about putting together costumes. When most of the world was out partying on Saturday night, we were out seeing that movie about Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields. Stephin Merritt is kinda spooky. Then for Halloween proper, the extent of celebrating was including pumpkin in my Moroccan Lamb Stew. Technically it was butternut squash, but that's close enough. And Opaw hissed at least once. Happy Halloween!

My main catalyst for the lamb stew was a jar of preserved lemons that has been criminally neglected. I guess I go through stages and have a tendency to forget how magical they are. I want to dab preserved lemon behind my ears, the scent of them is so intoxicating.

I also really wanted to make some homemade harissa, because I always buy that stuff prepared and it's so silly to do so. I already have every ingredient in my house, and it takes all of 2 minutes to throw it together. Plus, I had the perfect little jar to pour it into, which brings me more satisfaction than one might think.

Tender lamb, chickpeas, squash, warm aleppo pepper, tomatoes for balance, golden raisins for a hint of sweetness, preserved lemons for tang, and a sprinkle of fresh mint to wake up the whole combination. The weather is finally cooling down, and this is the dish to warm you up. Recipe after the jump:


2 pounds lean shoulder of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons harissa sauce (recipe follows), plus more for serving
4 cups peeled, uncooked butternut squash in 1/2-inch cubes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 15-ounce can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 preserved lemon, rind and pulp finely diced, plus additional pulp from 1 preserved lemon
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint for garnish

Cooked couscous or bulghur for serving.

Season the lamb cubes with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven set over medium-high heat and cook the lamb, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is soft. Add the 2 tbsp of harissa sauce and cook another 5 minutes.

Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, until the lamb is tender, about 45 minutes. Add the squash, tomatoes, chickpeas and additional water to almost cover the ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the preserved lemon and raisins and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, garnish with mint and serve with couscous or bulghur and more harissa on the side.

Serves 4-6.


1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on desired heat level
1/4 tsp kosher salt

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Let sit at least an hour before serving with lamb stew.

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