Quinoa with Moroccan Winter Squash Stew

February is almost over, but winter is still hanging on in Cleveland. There's a thick blanket of snow on the ground, and a distinct lack of good produce to be found; I've just about eaten my share of potatoes and I don't think I can bear to look at another apple. Unfortunately, the farmers market doesn't start until April -- and we won't see any local tomatoes until late May, at the earliest! What's a girl to do?

Fall back on an old favorite, butternut squash. But rather than simply roasting it, why not go for something with punch? This moroccan stew calls for almost a pantryful of spices, but they meld together in a way that makes this dish incredibly satisfying. And the colors -- the colors! They'll add a little sunshine to any overcast day.

Quinoa with Moroccan Winter Squash Stew:

(slightly modified from Bon Appetit)

For the stew:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of saffron
1 cup water
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 cups 1" cubes of butternut squash (from a 1.5lb squash)
2 cups 3/4" cubes of carrots

For the quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

For the stew:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; saute until soft, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Mix in paprika and next 8 ingredients. Add 1 cup water, tomatoes, and lemon juice. Bring to boil. Add squash and carrots. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

For the quinoa:
Rinse quinoa; drain. Melt butter with oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and turmeric; saute 1 minute. Add quinoa; stir 1 minute. Add 2 cups water. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.

Rewarm stew. Stir in half of the parsley. Spoon quinoa onto platter, forming well in the center. Spoon stew into well. Sprinkle over remaining parsley.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.
(although, it was so tasty that we ended up polishing off most of it for lunch)

Bon Appétit, January 2006

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Butternut Squash Risotto

Aah, risotto. Some years back, when I was a young and naive undergraduate, I had never heard of risotto. It was a shame, really, because I love congee (perhaps the ultimate Asian comfort food) -- which is very similar, except it's a little runnier toppings go onto the finish product, instead of being mixed in at the end of cooking. Oh, it's delicious. This risotto was one of the first things Daniel cooked for me -- and I knew straight away that something special was going on.

This particular risotto is good because it's simple. Not a whole lot goes into it, but the individual flavors really come through. And don't be scared off because you've heard risotto is so time-consuming -- at the most, this recipe will take you an hour to throw together, and every minute is worth it.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 large butternut squash (~2 lbs), peeled, seeded, chopped into 1/2" chunks
4 tbsp olive oil

6 cups vegetable broth

3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash on large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast until tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes.

Bring stock to simmer in heavy large saucepan. Reduce heat to very low; cover and keep stock warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in another heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leeks and sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and simmer until absorbed, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup hot stock; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, allowing stock to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 25 minutes longer. Add roasted squash, cream, Parmesan cheese and sage; stir until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Bon Appétit, December 1999
Serves 4 as a main course.

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Seven-Year Granola

I love to eat granola (crunchy, sweet AND good for me? yes, please!), but I don't buy it very often because it is so expensive pre-made. I hadn't really thought of making it myself until Melissa from the Traveling Lunchbox posted this recipe for her Seven-Year Granola. If she had spent seven years perfecting this recipe, I felt it was my duty to at least try it out. The verdict? A-mazing. And making it was so easy that I'm never going to contemplate buying it from a store again!

Now, the recipe does say to add any dried fruit after the granola is done baking, but I think this depends on the moisture content of your fruit. I was using blueberries, which were very damp, so I added them before baking and they held up well. I also used sliced almonds and pumpkin seeds for the nuts. And do make sure that you use quick oats, not old-fashioned rolled oats. Quick oats are processed longer than the rolled ones, so they're much lighter and cook more quickly.

Seven-Year Granola

1 lb. (450g) quick oats
3 cups coarsely chopped raw nuts and/or seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground mace
1 cup, packed (200g) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (115g/1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (80ml) water
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 tsps vanilla extract
dried fruit, at your discretion

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C. In a food processor, coffee grinder or blender, grind half the oats to a fine powder. In a large bowl, combine the whole oats, ground oats, nuts and seeds. In a microwave-safe bowl (or in a saucepan over medium heat), combine the brown sugar, butter and water and heat just until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbly. Stir the mixture together until smooth, then stir in the salt and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the oats and nuts, stirring well to coat (I usually do this with my hands). Let stand for about ten minutes.

Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet, separating it into irregular clumps with your fingers, and allowing space between the clumps for the hot air to circulate. Slide into the middle of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and stir, gently breaking up the mixture into small-to-medium sized clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes or so before stirring again. Repeat the bake-and-stir until the mixture is a uniform golden brown and completely dry; this usually takes 1-1 1/2 hours. Cool completely, then stir in any dried dried fruit you want to use.

Store in a covered container at room temperature. Serve with milk or plain yogurt and fresh fruit as desired.

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