Moroccan Potato + Summer Vegetable Tagine: Performance Meal Planning with Potatoes

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By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Potatoes USA and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

In one of my first nutrition classes, we read the book Nourishing Wisdom and I distinctly recall a section about the flavor of place, and how the author found himself loving and craving pizza when living in New York, avocados when in San Diego, and Gravenstein apples when in Sebastopol, California, a place where they’re particularly grown. When I read that section of the book, it took me back to fall term of my senior year as an undergraduate. I lived in Ireland that semester and for the first time in my life, could gladly eat potatoes every single day. My favorite was to buy the smaller baby potatoes, slide a few into a pot of cold water on the stove, bring to a boil and cook until soft, and then serve plain as a side with no additional flavorings except a little heavy-on-the-vinegar Irish ketchup and a dash of salt. It was heaven.

And then I returned home and my affinity for potatoes dropped away just as quickly, even though I grew up eating them a whole bunch.

I haven’t craved a single potato-based meal since living in Ireland. Enjoyed, yes. But never craved in that same way.

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Which is really too bad because my local farmers grow some particularly lovely and flavorful potatoes, baby size and all.

I’ve an intention to focus more on making the main components of my meals from local ingredients for the next couple months, and that means exploring some great foods I don’t always rely on. While at my local farm the other day, I noticed all the different potato varieties lining a whole section of the stand and I quickly grabbed up several handfuls of each, envisioning all the different ways I’d like to enjoy them. While simple can often be best, I decided to center them in a savory sweet Moroccan Tagine. If you’ve never tried a tagine, I think this version is the Northern African equivalent to the very-Irish Potato Stew I grew up on.

So completely different, but also so similar.

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And while still on the topic of flavors of place, there’s actually a good reason why we crave foods grown in our regions, those in season, or what is super super fresh. They’re the foods that are often packed full of all the nutrients!

This is particularly important for us athletes who are trying to maximize our nutrient intake, pack in some quality meals to enhance recovery, and eat for flavor, texture, and enjoyment. For me anyway, even several years beyond the Ireland potato phase, this meal hits all those spots.

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While I don’t generally go into nutrients and calories and nutritionism in detail in this space, I recognize that some of you actually do want this information, and to be honest, I live in this world for at least half my time right now so I do understand.

And to be clear, I also once thought potatoes weren’t a very nutritionally sound food choice but that’s generally only true if they’re eaten without their skin, are fried in rancid oil or processed beyond recognition.

For athletes especially, potatoes provide a good source of carbohydrates and potassium, as well as several trace minerals, and if super colorful like the one below, phytonutrients needed to perform at one’s best. A medium potato with the skin provides just 110 calories and a good hit of the daily value of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant needed for optimal athletic recovery. They also provide more potassium than a medium banana, which aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. And nearly all of us–athletes or non-athletes–fail to get enough of this essential electrolyte!

Lastly, potatoes provide as much — if not more — of several essential vitamins and minerals found in spaghetti, brown rice or whole wheat bread, making them a smart addition to the other favorite performance foods. This is especially true because the more diversity in our whole-food choices, the happier our gut microbes–and thus health! And even more important for athletes who stress the GI to the max in all our fun but grueling endurance pursuits.

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1 Nutritional data is based on a 5.2 ounce skin-on potato.
2 Gelibter, A., et al. Satiety following intake of potatoes and other carbohydrate test meals. Ann Nutr Metab. 2013;62:37-43.

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Moroccan Potato + Summer Vegetable Tagine, 
serves 3-4
– Ras el Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend, somewhat similar to a garam masala. The name actually means “Top of the Shop” and each spice house will usually have their own blend which features their best spices. I made my own (see below), but there are several good ones available to purchase, or improvise with a garam masala knowing it won’t provide quite the same flavor profile.
-Other than the potatoes, any summer vegetables will work in this and I encourage you to use what is fresh and available near you!

2 Tbs. coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbs. ras el hanout
1 tsp. sea salt
1 lb. small potatoes, sliced 3/4-in thick
1/2 lb. yellow summer squash, diced
small bunch / 4 oz. broccoli, chopped
3 cups water
small handful / 4 oz. green beans, ends trimmed and diced
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
4 dried plums or dates, diced
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
cooked quinoa, optional

  • In a large pot or dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Cook until the onions begin to soften.
  • Then add the ras el hanout spice, salt, potatoes, summer squash and broccoli. Stir to coat, and then add enough water to barely cover most of the vegetables. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • About 10 minutes before the potatoes are done, stir in the green beans, garbanzo beans, and dried plums.
  • As the vegetables are done, add in the lemon juice to balance the flavors and then taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Serve it as is, or alongside some quinoa.

 

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Ras el Hanout seasoning
Blend this up by weight or by teaspoons.

4 parts cumin
4 parts ginger
4 parts turmeric
3 parts black pepper
2 parts coriander
2 parts cinnamon
2 parts cayenne
1 part cloves
1 part allspice
1 part cardamom
1 part rose petal powder

 

Nutrition Information // Based on 1/3 of recipe served without quinoa
Calories 475 | Fat 12.8 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium 830 mg | Total Carbohydrates 79 g | Fiber 16 g | Sugar 18 g | Added Sugar 0 g | Potassium 1563 mg / 33% DV | Protein 17g | Vitamin C 93 mg

 

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Moroccan Quinoa Salad, a favorite

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I cannot count the number of times I’ve made this main-dish salad the day before a race, gobbled it up as my night-before meal, and then happily gone back for the leftovers in the hours after the effort was over. Though I’ve eaten so many kale and quinoa salad combinations over the years–and perchance you have too–this one is my personal favorite this past year. Originally adapted from Eat Grain and similar in many ways to this dish, I’ve changed up most of the ingredients and quantities, as I tend to, and now it is simply the kind of food I like to eat all the time, but especially when the weather begins to turn back to cool and the days shorten. Oof, I think we’re getting there.

 

Moroccan Quinoa Salad, serves 3-4 as a main dish
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and soaked
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1 large bunch kale, diced
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 cup raisins
2-3 Tbs. capers, rinsed and drained
a couple small handfuls of mint leaves, minced
salt as needed

Dressing:
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1-2 tsp. maple syrup or honey
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/16 tsp. clove
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
splash of water, as needed to thin

  • A few hours before making, soak the quinoa in water and add a splash of apple cider vinegar. This will reduce some of the phytates, making its minerals more available and digestible. Then, drain and rinse the quinoa and add it to a small pot with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down to low. Cook for 20 minutes and then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  • While the quinoa is cooking whisk together the dressing ingredients and chop or dice the nuts, kale, and fruit.
  • To a large salad bowl, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa, garbanzos, chopped hazelnuts, dried fruit, and capers. Then, to the top add the diced kale. Using a small amount to start, pour a little dressing on the kale and massage it gently with your hands, softening it up a bit. Then, use a spoon to mix the kale in with the other ingredients. To finish, top with the mint leaves, and add additional dressing and salt as needed.

Moroccan Butternut Squash + Wild Rice with Garbanzos

Moroccan Butternut Squash + Wild Rice with Garbanzos

 

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so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

– from To the New Year by W.S. Merwin

 

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Moroccan Butternut Squash + Wild Rice with Garbanzos, serves 4-6
Near the tail end of winter last year, I made a rendition of this off the Kinfolk website. I declared it the best thing I had eaten all winter and couldn’t wait until squash season came back. This year, I realized the recipe had disappeared and so I set about to recreating it. Unlike the original, I added cooked garbanzo beans and a good couple handfuls of winter greens. It is now more of a one-dish main grain salad than the original, which served as a side. It’s a good one for a cold winter evening and makes an excellent leftover lunch. Enjoy!

1 cup uncooked wild rice
1 1/2- 2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2/3 cup parsley, minced
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
4 cups chopped kale or other winter greens
1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste, divided

Dressing:
2 Tbs. coconut or good quality canola oil
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/16 tsp. clove
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
splash of water, as needed

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cook rice by combining with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bringing to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the rice is light and fluffy and the water is completely absorbed, 50-60 minutes.
  • Mix the dressing ingredients in a small dish or jar.
  • Place squash cubes  and diced onion in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 2/3-3/4 of the dressing over the vegetables, and sprinkle with salt. Mix it well with your hands or wooden spoon until the vegetables are evenly coated. Place them in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until the squash begins to brown on the edges and completely soft.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss together the garbanzos, parsley, greens, dried fruit, and hazelnuts. When the rice and vegetables are done cooking, allow them both to cool slightly and then add to the bowl ingredients. Stir in the remaining dressing and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.