I like to bring easy self-serve dishes to a party; anything that can fit into a bowl usually does the trick. This strategy pays off since it doesn’t require a lot of space or dirty lots of dishes, it’s not as fancy as tiers of complicated little bites but if the flavors are good and hearty people will go for it.
One of my favorite choices is a simple, uncomplicated Moroccan dish; I first tried this with a recipe from Bon Appetit; however I found a few elements to be too time consuming as well as a hinderance to the clean flavors of the dish. After reworking the recipe I ended up with a real crowd pleaser and the best part is that after you chop a few vegetables the hard part is over. The vibrant orange hues of this dish really stand out; the brightness matches the flavor perfectly. The rustic flavor of the turnips plays into the soft sweetness of the potatoes and carrots, balanced out by the zing of sun-dried tomatoes and olives. And my absolute favorite part of a good stew is the texture; it gives your mouth a break so you can play with your food a bit and don’t have to worry about getting anything stuck in your teeth.
Moroccan Vegetable Tagine
For a quick version, you can use store bought ground spices instead of toasting and grinding the spices yourself. An interesting fact about coriander: it’s the same thing as cilantro and in the UK the seeds and the fresh herb both go by the proper title, coriander, whereas in here in the U.S. the fresh herb/leaves are called by their Spanish name, cilantro.
If you want to make some of this ahead of time you can make the spice mixture a up to 1 week ahead and store in a plastic bag or container. You can prep the vegetables 1 day ahead and store in plastic bags or containers, just be sure to keep the sweet potatoes and turnips submerged in water to keep them from browning. You can make the couscous 1 or 2 days ahead.
Makes 6 servings
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled carrots
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 cups water
1 1/4 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound turnips (about 2 medium), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
3/4 cup brine-cured green olives, pitted, coarsely chopped (I would advise against using canned olives as they can be quite bland)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (about 1 ounce; not oil-packed), thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried or chopped fresh mint (optional)
10 ounces couscous
3 cups vegetable stock
In a skillet over medium heat toast the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds until they start to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Transfer seeds to a spice mill (or if you’re more low tech use a mortar and pestle) and process until finely ground. Add red pepper flakes, turmeric, and salt and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in spice blend, garlic, and tomato paste for 1 minute. Stir in carrots and celery for 2 minutes. Add water, sweet potatoes, turnips, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for 35 minutes with lid ajar; stirring occasionally. Add parsley, cilantro, and mint; season with salt and pepper. Close lid, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
While the vegetables are simmering you can make the couscous, or you can make it beforehand. Add vegetable stock to a small pot, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add couscous, put on the lid, and let sit for 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and spoon onto plates, placing the stewed vegetables on top.