moroccan sweet potato + fennel stew with lemon-cilantro basmati rice

It has been a long transition from holiday mode to work mode this year.

Two weeks in Massachusetts, two weeks of family, two weeks of indulgent desserts + hearty meals, two weeks of friends, two weeks of SNOW, two weeks of crazy. Never enough!

Anyway, let's get on with my most favorite comforting comfort food.

This stew is something I make A LOT... and have changed many, many times. I added some ingredients, omitted others, adjusted the amount of spices, so on and so forth, and now it is ready for you.

This was the first "meal" I made when I moved to San Francisco from Boston nearly a year ago, and it became an immediate favorite. Perfect during the chillier months on any side of the country. Plus, almost all of the ingredients are seasonal: sweet potatoes, fennel, mustard greens, onions, and garlic.

I even picked these mustard greens directly from my garden! They are so delicious and super easy to grow. Like require barely any attention easy to grow. These greens are not as tough as kale, but definitely a bit chewy unlike spinach which is what I normally add to this stew. So feel free to do just that in case you can't find or don't particularly like mustard. Their flavor is somewhat bitter, but it pairs perfectly with the sweet, juicy golden raisins and cinnamon in the stew. And they are yummy and extremely nutritious - win, win.

Cleaning mustard greens requires patience. It is very important to allow the greens to soak in cold water for a few minutes, drain, and repeat about two or three times. The leaves have lots of curves and curly edges trapping dirt and making it more difficult to clean. Soaking them in water loosens all the hidden grime.

For this recipe I use some dry red wine for this stew. There are several kinds of red wine that may be useful for cooking: Cabernet, Merlot, Sangiovese, to name a few. I tend to buy those little juice box shaped Cabernet Sauvignon's for recipes; affordable, tasty, and exactly the size you need.

Speaking of wine, two of my closest friends showed me their Wine Journal they have been working on and I am copying their idea. They have a plain-paged journal to remember the different bottles they have purchased and drunk. Each bottle gets a page where they will sketch the label, any tasting notes they observed, and mention any food eaten with the wine + if it paired well. I always love drinking wine and seeing what I taste verses the label or winemaker's remarks. I am definitely starting this for the new year!

moroccan sweet potato + fennel stew with lemon-cilantro basmati rice

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, sliced

1 bulb fennel, sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 large sweet potatoes, sliced + halved

1/2 cup dry red wine

1  28-oz can of diced tomatoes in their juices

1  16-oz can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup of low-sodium vegetable broth (even better if homemade)

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 tbsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro plus additional for garnish

for the rice:

1 cup white basmati rice (or brown if you prefer)

2 cups water

6 cilantro leaves

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

pinch of salt 

Directions:

In a large dutch oven or stockpot heat 2 tbsp of evoo on medium-high heat. Add the fennel and red onion. Sauté until translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the red wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Cook until wine has evaporated - the contents will turn a deep red color.

Add the turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, smoked paprika, cardamom, salt and pepper. Stir. Next, add the tomatoes + their juices, vegetable broth, raisins, and beans. Stir and bring to a simmer. Add the sweet potatoes and return to boil. Sprinkle the cilantro on top, reduce heat to low, and cover. Stir occasionally and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked and slightly soft.

Meanwhile, add the rice, water, lemon juice, salt, and cilantro to a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover, and bring the heat down to low. Time the rice according to the content instructions - most likely 15-20 minutes. 

When the potatoes are just about ready, sprinkle the chopped mustard greens on top of the stew - do not stir. Cover and allow greens to steam for about 5 minutes. Once wilted, stir the stew. Serve over a bed of the lemon-cilantro rice, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle some cilantro on top. Enjoy it by the bowl-ful.

* This stew also goes great with Israeli couscous or quinoa. 

** All of the spices used in this recipe are considered part of the traditional spices utilized in Moroccan cooking, and therefore I deem this stew "Moroccan."