Moroccan-spiced Braised Root Vegetables
The end of February is a time when I start getting really tired of root vegetables. I’m longing for heirloom tomatoes and berries and fresh leafy greens. But this delicious bowl of spicy braised potatoes and squash brightens up gloomy February a little bit and makes me less resentful toward the tubers. As I try to eat more seasonally and more locally, I’m learning just how much more creative you have to be when it’s winter in New England. I generally roast root vegetables, but I started getting a bit bored with roasted potatoes, so I thought I’d try my hand at braising. And I am glad I did. This was fast and easy, and it could be a very versatile dinner: Different seasonings could make this a totally different meal. But these flavorings were spot on for cold, wet, windy winter.
Braising the vegetables took less time than roasting, which is a huge bonus these days, when I barely have time to eat between homework and job applications and work. You could really use any combination of root vegetables here: if you don’t like squash, leave it out. I used one small Yukon Gold potato, one small sweet potato, and about a cup of chopped butternut squash, and I love the colors and the slightly sweet flavor.
I used vegetable stock for this, but I imagine it could taste pretty great with chicken or beef stock. I actually used vegetable stock concentrate, from Trader Joe’s, because they didn’t have proper vegetable stock, and I’m not sure how I feel about the stuff. It’s convenient, because you can make as much or as little as you want and don’t have to worry about the rest of it going bad. But it kind of weirds me out. I’ve said it before and I should probably just do it already, but I should really be making my own vegetable stock.
The seasonings in this are what really make it amazing: I used smoked paprika, Harissa, a French Moroccan seasoning I love, and a bit of lemon pepper. Olives and sun-dried tomatoes gave it a little burst of flavor, and chopped almonds added some crunch. I ate these vegetables over egg noodles, but I get it would be great with couscous, pearl pasta, or orzo.
- 1 T. canola or olive oil
- 1/2 an onion, chopped
- 1 Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 c. of butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. Moroccan spice (I use a random French brand that I found in our pantry; you could blend your own quite easily if you can't find a good one)
- 1 T. Harissa
- 1 tsp. lemon pepper
- 2 c. vegetable stock
- 1/3 c. chopped Kalamata olives
- a small handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- chopped almonds to garnish
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for about a minute, or until they are soft and yellowing. Add the squash and potatoes, and stir until lightly coated with oil. Let them cook for about three minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add all the spices, the olives, and the sun-dried tomatoes, and then add vegetable stock.
You don't want the vegetables to be entirely covered. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover the skillet, and let everything cook for about 20 minutes.
My skillet is so enormous that none of my lids fit and I have to use another enormous skillet to cover it. This works nicely for braising because the vegetables don't get suffocated and they can steam a little. I don't know if there is any validity to the idea that the vegetables shouldn't suffocate, but it makes me feel better.
Once the vegetables are soft and can be easily split with a fork, you're done. Serve over pasta or rice or something, and sprinkle with almonds. It couldn't be easier, or more delicious.