Sunday, May 25, 2008

Moroccan Chicken and a Lessrockin' version

Sometimes a complex recipe is fabulous; you spend hours in the kitchen and your guests say "I never imagined asparagus could be so ethereal!" and you modestly demur but you know, deep down, that you've taken asparagus to another level that the hoi polloi can only dream about. Other times I've looked at Sweetie and said, "Three hours in the kitchen for THAT???"

My old standby Moroccan Chicken, from the cleverly named "Healthy Chicken" cookbook by Barbara Chernetz, is worth the effort. It's a total pain in the ass to make and must be reserved for weekends in our household, but so be it.

So imagine my interest when I was in a doctor's office and came across "Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew" in the March, 2007 Good Housekeeping. Could it be? A tasty, no-fuss vegetarian version of our beloved Moroccan Chicken? And no one paying attention to the fate of the waiting room magazine?

Sorta. It lacks wow-power and co-worker-at-the-community-microwave envy. If you're in a rush and need to throw something together, the Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew is filling, fast, and healthful, if not stupendous:

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 to 14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth (1 3/4 cups), or vegetable broth for a vegetarian dish
1 cup no-salt-added garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks (Peeled? Who has time? Leaving the peel on is fine)
2 small zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch chunks (I had yellow crookneck squash on hand - it worked fine)
Whole grain couscous
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped (not something I keep on hand or am willing to spend $2 on... the recipe works without it)

1. In nonstick 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 8 - 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic, curry powder, cumin, and allspice; cook 30 seconds.

2. Add tomatoes, broth, beans, and sweet potato; cover and heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 10 minutes. SWtir in zucchini and cook, covered, 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3. Meanwhile, prepare couscous as label directs

4. Stir mint into stew. Serve stew with couscous.

Each serving - about 360 calories, 14g protein, 70g carb, 5g total fat, 12g fiber

Now the more-rockin' version -

1 ounce slivered almonds (about 1/4 cup)
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces (I use whatever chicken I have in the freezer)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup diced carrot (people dice those little things? I slice them)
1 cup diced zucchini
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I use 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground cumin (I use 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground coriander (I use 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (that's plenty)
2 cups no-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup canned chick-peas, rinsed and drained (I use the whole can - what else would I do with them?)
1/2 cup golden and/or dark raisins (not a fan of raisins & meat. I leave them out)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt & pepper
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander or parsley (totally optional, IMHO)

1. In a small skillet, toast the almonds over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until browned*, about 5 minutes; set aside.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet; set aside.

3. In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onino and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and zucchini and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander, and cayenne. Cook, stirring, 1 minute to toast the spices (this really does make a difference). Add the chicken broth and heat to boiling. Reduce the heat, add the reserved chicken and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.

4. Add the chick-peas and raisins (ew) and cook, covered, 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Uncover and boil over medium-high heat until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

5. In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cups water to boiling. Stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in the almonds and coriander/parsley and fluff lightly with a fork before serving with the chicken.

Per serving - 501 calories, 34g protein, 13g fat, 64 carbs, 21% USRDA Iron, 52% USRDA Niacin

Just a quick note - if you're really intent on throwing this together quickly it can be done. The night before toast the almonds, chop the carrots & zucchini and save in a Ziploc, and cook the chicken. Combine the spices in a Ziploc. You should be able to cut a good 20 - 30 minutes off the prep time when you put it together. Technically couscous can be made ahead, but it gets gummy and it doesn't really save that much time.

*Toasting nuts must be done CAREFULLY - they burst into flame at the slightest provocation. You've been warned.

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