Moroccan Tagine with Sweet Potatoes + Beets, food for runners (or this runner)

Moroccan Tagine with Sweet Potatoes + Beets, food for runners (or this runner)

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There is nothing like a few days spent living with others to put into perspective how truly personal is our choice in food. While I will happily eat roasted broccoli or leftover kale salad for 9am snack (and frequently do), even the idea of kale salad at a seemingly more appropriate time of day might leave others running for the door.

 

 

This point is driven home in my frequent conversations about food with others. My work at the university has often left me chatting about the differences between foods here in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world–how everything is just sooo sweet–and how diets inherently change even without the individual really attempting to when taking up residence here.

 

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In sharing this recipe, I’ll make a point in saying first that I question the title and definitely the authenticity as I’ve never been to Morocco and have only eaten at one semi-Moroccan restaurant. And yet I love the flavors of “Moroccan” foods, particularly the tagines with sweet, savory, and spicy notes. So I’ll take liberty and call this my own version of a Moroccan tagine.

Second, I can see some camps loving this and others, again, running for the door because whoa, there are tooo many vegetables and don’t get me started on Rebecca’s fondness for spices.

 

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But basically I call this the type of food that I like to eat to fuel my running life. Or more adequately, it is the food I tend to crave before a big run or race. So when William and others were packing sandwiches for our relay race a few weeks back, I found myself making and then eating Moroccan sweet potato + beet tagine with quinoa to fuel my runs and turning to it again a few more times throughout the ensuing weeks.

It is also a recipe I know I will adapt and make further into the fall season and the months (and miles) to come.

 

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Moroccan Sweet Potato + Beet Tagine, serves 6-8
Inspired by Vegetarian Everyday

Though I tend to use a heavy hand with the harissa, I haven’t yet purchased or made one that has been nearly as spicy as the kind I’ve had in a restaurant–and its flavor tends to get muted by all the sweet notes of the apricots and currants. Use more or less, or even leave out, as you see fit.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 inches fresh raw ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1  1/2 teaspoons cumin
sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons harissa
4-5 large tomatoes, diced
zest and juice of one lemon
3-4 beets, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 medium eggplant, sliced into large pieces
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 2-inch pieces
2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced into 2-inch pieces
10 dried apricots, each sliced into about six pieces
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1/4 cup currants
thinly sliced fresh mint, to serve
cooked millet, quinoa, brown rice or other, to serve

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion for a few minutes until it becomes soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and the spices and allow to cook for about 30 seconds more.
  2. Stir in the harissa, diced tomatoes, lemon zest and juice. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer.
  3. Add the beets, eggplant, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and apricots. Stir well so everything is nice and mixed, then cover and simmer for about an hour. Keep it covered as much as possible, but stir a couple times throughout the hour.
  4. Once the vegetables are tender all the way through, add in the cooked beans and currants, cook for about 5 minutes more to heat through, and then season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  5. Serve over cooked millet or other grain with a garnish of sliced mint on top.

summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes

summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes

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Even though I am no longer a teacher, there is something about the beginning of the school year that gets me excited for a fresh start, eager minds, clean hallways, and a newly decorated classroom. And so it was when I walked the hallways of the elementary school I work with this last week. Even though I’ve been there all summer with my high school students managing the school garden, the teachers are back now and the place is slowly coming to life after its summer slumber. There are fresh new beginnings in the air.

At the same time, the internship I created for my students ended this week, and so marks the last time I will work with this particular summer program, as I too am beginning to close the chapter of my work in school garden education. It has been a journey and a learning experience, and I can say on the other end of three+ years, I’m glad I trusted my intuition in taking the risky position that is my job, as it didn’t start out being financially sustainable and there was much jostling back and forth with funding cuts and uncertainty in the in-between. And so it’s kind of ironic that now on the other side, I am choosing to walk away from the work not having the future months figured out, but with an awareness that I won’t know what comes next until I take this step.

Beyond all learning and experience I have gained from the actual work, maybe the biggest lesson I have learned since stepping in to the “real world” of work, is how to trust that feeling of needing to close the book and walk away, even as it has been enjoyable, safe, comfortable, and I’ve been part of an amazing and cohesive team.

 

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With all this in mind, I think it is fitting to share a recipe here that was first schemed up in the school garden surrounded by all the vegetables we were harvesting that day and adapted in the moment according to my students’ preferences. Each week of the summer, they have been cooking in the garden one afternoon and providing samples to their CSA customers utilizing whatever produce is in abundance that week. In this late summer season, everything is going full throttle and so this salad has a little of everything. There are random little pops of sweet like ground cherries balancing the creamy leeks and crunchy beans. There were a few hazelnuts leftover from another week that provided more texture, directly opposite of the squishier quality of the eggplant and zucchini. And there was a lemon in the fridge that needed to be used and from it, we all enjoyed the lemon-Dijon dressing. All in all, this became a showcase of all the summer vegetables and everyone that tried it–whether high school student or adult–loved it.

 

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summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes, serves 4

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

extra virgin olive oil

2 small leeks, thinly sliced

1 lb. green beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 small zucchini, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 cup ground cherries

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped or halved

Dressing:
2 tsp. Dijon mustard, preferably coarse grained

2 tsp. honey

juice from ½ a large lemon

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

sea salt & black pepper

  1. In a medium saucepan, add quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and the leeks. Cook, stirring regularly until leeks are golden and crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. At this point, stir in the summer squash. Cook for a few more minutes and then add the green beans. Cook a bit longer – just until the beans brighten up and lose their raw bite and the squash softens.
  4. Turn out into a bowl and stir in the ground cherries, tomatoes, raisins, hazelnuts, and cooked quinoa.
  5. Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard and honey. Add lemon juice, vinegar, and oil and whisk for about 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper according to taste.
  6. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed.

Pomegranate + Hazelnut Moroccan Grain Salad

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There was once a man who had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. He went looking for figs on it but found none. So he said to his gardener, ‘Look for three years I have been coming here looking for figs on this fig tree, and I haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it go on using up the soil? But the gardener answered, ‘Leave it alone, sir, just one more year. I will dig around it and put in some fertilizer. Then if the tree bears figs next year, so much the better; if not, then you can have it cut down.’

    – Luke 13:6-9

 

I have a plain black journal which I cart around for all things spiritual. It is a book riddled with inspirational sayings from homilies, scripture, from the girls in my prayer group, and messages I hear from prayer. I doubt the journal could be useful to anyone aside from me as it’s got thought-segments scattered randomly and the same phrases scribbled repeatedly throughout. Months ago, Father Ignacio stated, God is not like Amazon Prime. We have to wait, in one of his homilies. It is a phrase which has taken up considerable real estate these past few weeks.

 

As is usual when I need to work on something, signs appear from all sorts of corners with the same message. For the last couple weeks, I have had several reminders on perspective, of thinking about whose lens I am looking through, of being able to see my life as Jesus sees it, through His vision, and of rewriting the story I tell myself. Consistently at church, I hear the message to ask God the way and He will use you. I have been increasingly frustrated as I’ve been asking for guidance for months and (telling myself) I hear nothing. I sat for an hour this week and had an internal fight with God. Why are you not speaking to me?, I silently yelled. What do you want me to do? And then the quietest, softest answer:  Have patience. Trust in me. My immediate reaction was to act as if I hadn’t heard anything. Instead, I responded, but WHAT do you want me to DO!? Trusting and being patient sounds a lot like sitting around doing nothing when all I want is for my fig tree to be bearing figs.

 

I then came home and complained to William about the experience, of asking for guidance daily and hearing nothing, of being frustrated because He refuses to speak to me. William’s response was, perhaps you’re not looking at the situation the right way. Perhaps when you think nothing is happening, it is because His answer is not what YOU THINK it should be.

 

I can be incredibly stubborn. I ask for guidance but I only want to hear an affirmation that what I want is what I should want–is what I should be working on and is going to happen according to my schedule. I want clear, easily discernable boxes to check in a linear pattern marking the way forward. I want to know the daily labor will produce the desired results. I find it extremely difficult to entertain the possibility that He is answering and doing something in my life when it doesn’t look exactly like what I expect it to.

 

I look to my journal. His message to trust and have patience is written clearly, week after week, right next to the reminders about Amazon Prime. When I turn the pages back and see the same words time and again, I realize He’s been there responding all along. It is time to stop being frustrated and trust. It is time to rewrite the story I tell myself. I need to stop looking at my life as an unbearing fig tree. I need to spend less mental energy tearing it down and more of it in adding fertilizer.

 

God is not like Amazon Prime. We have to wait.

 

 

Moroccan Grain Salad with Pomegranates + Hazelnuts, adapted from Green Kitchen Travels

I pulled the last two eggplants from their stems the other morning. It was a beautiful morning to be in the sunshine, to pull the last of the season’s purple jewels from their life cord, to traipse around in my mud boots after months of heat and dry ground. It poured rain the day before and since and the ground has been soft. Most of the summer vegetables are finally done. This salad is a snapshot of the present season, a mix of old and new. Combined with those last two eggplants, roasted sweet onions and handfuls of parsley and mint, there are this season’s hazelnuts and the seeds of a pomegranate tossed in. I made this salad for the first time over the Labor Day holiday for our family reunion. That first version was slightly different with a couple zucchini sliced into rounds and roasted. It was a big hit and I promised to share the recipe. Now that summer is well and truly over, I’ve thought about how to carry this salad’s flavors into the autumn and holiday season as it would do nicely as a side during a celebration meal. I’m picking up a load of winter squash this weekend and I imagine some roasted delicata or kabocha squash would make for an even tastier mixture paired with the cinnamon-infused grains, herbs, pomegranates and hazelnuts. 

1 large or 2 medium eggplants

1 medium onion

2 Tbs. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 garlic clove, crushed

salt

1 cup equal parts quinoa and millet (or all of either one)

2 cups water

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

juice of 1/2 a lemon

a handful of mint leaves

a handful of parsley

1/4 cup raisins

1 pomegranate, deseeded

1/2 cup toasted and coursely chopped hazelnuts

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Chop the eggplants and onion into small pieces. Place them on a large baking pan and drizzle with a small dose of oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven until soft and slightly burned around the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the oven and place in a large serving bowl. Add the olive oil and garlic and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook the quinoa and millet. Place the grains in a small saucepan and add the measured water, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat immediately, and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed.
  • To assemble the salad, place the cooked grains in the bowl with the roasted vegetables. Add the lemon juice, herbs, raisins, pomegranate seeds, and chopped hazelnuts. Give everything a good stir to evenly mix. Serve at room temperature or warm slightly.