Friday, March 30, 2012

Incredible Butternut Squash, Chickpea & Red Lentil Stew

This stew is amazing.

Trying exciting new recipes is always fun.  When I saw this North-African modeled stew, I was intrigued and made a mental note to buy the ingredients on my next grocery trip.  It just sounded so different from anything that I usually make.  As it came together beautifully in the kitchen, it became this incredible marriage of spices and ingredients that resulted in heavenly smells wafting through the house.  I was sold!

After reading the recipe reviews, I decided to make some major changes to improve the dish.  You can see the original recipe HERE.  My biggest changes included using red onion and canned chickpeas, adding garlic and chicken to the dish, sauteing the onion and garlic before adding the other ingredients and also cooking the stew on the stove top instead of a slow-cooker.  Several of the reviews noted that there wasn't much flavor, and that all the ingredients sort of became the same consistency in the slow cooker.  Because of this, I added extra flavor by using red onion and by sauteing the onion along with garlic before adding the other ingredients.  This worked flawlessly and the vegetable broth deglazed the pan perfectly, adding even more flavor. 

Also, cooking this on the stove top kept the ingredients from becoming the same consistency.  The squash and carrots still had a little bite to them, and the flavor was incredible.  The cumin, saffron and fresh ginger in this stew really push it over the top in the deliciousness department!

Brad and I found the finished stew to be packed with flavor, and upon first bite, I even got a "Wow!" from Brad.  I think he was a fan.  :)

Luckily, there are left-overs in the fridge, which makes me happy.  I might serve them over brown rice tonight, or I just might serve it in a bowl all on its own again. 

This is a keeper!  Bon Appetit, my friends!

Butternut Squash, Chickpea & Red Lentil Stew
Adapted from Eating Well

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron, (see Note)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped roasted lightly salted peanuts
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken breast in an oven-proof dish, drizzling it with about 1 tbsp. of the extra virgin olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and bake for approximately 40 - 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Cut into small bite-sized pieces and set to the side.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat, drizzle 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.  Add the red onion and saute until tender and slightly golden brown.  Next, add the garlic and continue to saute for 1 additional minute.
  4. Deglaze the pan by adding the vegetable broth to the pot, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom.
  5. Add the squash, carrots, lentils, chickpeas, chicken, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, salt, saffron and pepper.  Stir together well.
  6. Put on the lid, leaving it ajar, and simmer over lowish heat until the squash are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, about 45 minutes.  While it's simmering, stir the stew every now and then, to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.  If the stew starts to become too thick, you may need to add a little additional water during the process.  (I ended up adding about 2 cups of water.)
  7. Just before serving, stir in the lime juice. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Note:  Considered the world's most expensive spice, saffron contributes a pungent flavor and intense yellow color. It is sold in threads and powdered form.  

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Gina Kain said...

This was delicious! Made it today. We really enjoyed it. Followed the recipe to a T, even adding the 2 cups of water when cooking. It was perfect.

Mary Lynn said...

This is FABULOUS!! I left out the chicken and threw in some kale that needed to be used. It is so tasty and complex. One tip: pierce the squash once then microwave for 3 minutes. It is much easier to cut and peel! Thanks for a really great dinner!