14 April 2006

Vegetable Stew with Fennel & Herbed Couscous

Can you tell I love my legumes? This dish is the product of an early spring frustration with the limited good- quality fruits and vegetables available. Does anyone else notice this phenomena? It's warmer outside so the longing for asparagus and creamy lettuce and the first strawberries and peaches begin, but all that are at the supermarket are rock hard pears, tasteless imported veggies, and the apples and potatoes and root vegetables that have sustained us through the winter.

I decided to put together a vegetable stew with the usual suspects, but wanted to include a head of fennel and two types of lentils, along with a sweet note of dried apricots. It was surprisingly successful, and with the 5 minutes needed to bring a bowl of couscous to life, we had a great dinner with some cold "spring- has- got- to- be- around- the- corner" beer.

Ingredients:
~3 onions, chopped
~4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
~2 sweet potatoes, cubed small
~3-5 parsnips, chopped small
~3-5 carrots, chopped small
~1 head of fennel, chopped small (fronds washed, chopped and reserved)
~1 cup of unsulphered dried apricots, sliced
~1 white potato, chopped small
~2 cups of dried red lentils, rinsed
~2 cups of dried French lentils, rinsed
~about 2 liters of vegetable broth/ or soup cubes and water
~rind of any hard cheese
~1 1/3 cup dried couscous
~salt and pepper
~olive oil

To Construct:
1. In a small pot, combine the red lentils with the white potato and a soup cube with enough water to just cover them (or broth), bring to a boil and simmer until soft, puree and set aside.
2. In the meantime, warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot, soften the onions in the oil for about 8 minutes, add the garlic and stir until you can smell it!
3. Add the chopped sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, fennel, apricots and the French lentils and a teaspoon or two of salt --stir until coated in the onions and oil, then add the cheese rind and enough broth (or water + soup cubes) to cover the mixture by about an inch. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for about an hour, or until everything is tender, stirring intermittently.
4. Add the reserved puree and stir to warm through, then season to taste with salt and pepper--meanwhile add 1 and 3/4 cups of boiling water, a pinch of salt and a good drizzle of olive oil to a bowl with a well fitting lid containing the couscous and chopped fennel fronds, let sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.
5. Scoop some couscous into large bowls and cover with a few ladles of stew. Mmmmmm....

This recipe will serve 2 hungry diners, with leftovers for maybe 3 or 4 more meals! Or, it could probably serve 8-10 as a main course...I guess I think big whenever I'm cooking~

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