Simple North African Stew is served here over a bowl of couscous, but you could use rice, quinoa, millet or any other grain. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Photo: Ligaya Figueras
Photo: Ligaya Figueras

Kitchen Curious: A modified stew for modified times

The coronavirus has made me think hard about my food purchasing practices. Trips to any food purveyor — supermarket, farmers market, international grocery store, specialty shop — have always been a joy for me. If you are an avid home cook, I imagine you enjoy such outings, too. But right now, the smart thing is social distancing. And to limit our physical contact with others, we have to curtail unnecessary shopping trips.

Beginning this week, Kitchen Curious has gone into coronavirus cooking mode. That means we’re going to cook in a more industrious, frugal manner. We’re going to give better eyes to what’s inside our pantry, fridge, freezer and spice cabinet. How many times have you made something out of nothing — and with fantastic results? That’s what we’re going to do. The goal: only shop for food when we really have to.

This week’s Simple North African Stew is a bare-bones version of Chicken Stew for Couscous, published in Joetta Handrich Schlabach’s “Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook” (Herald Press, 1991). In the more than 20 years that I’ve been preparing this recipe, I’ve modified it again and again to adjust to vegetarians as well as to what I’ve got on hand. You’ll notice that the ingredient list is full of optional items: If you don’t have those, skip them.

I serve the stew over a steaming bowl of couscous, but rice, quinoa, millet or any other grain will suffice to soak up the juices of this comforting, wholesome dish.

Simple North African Stew

Simple North African Stew
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups water or 3 cups vegetable broth)
  • 2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (optional)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (or half the contents of 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes)
  • 1 cup dark leafy greens (spinach or Swiss chard is preferable)
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • Generous pinch ground red pepper (optional)
  • In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, chicken, onion, green beans, carrots, cumin, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and leafy greens and cook briefly. (Collard, turnip or mustard greens will require longer cook time. If using those, let cook at least 30 minutes.)
  • Add the chickpeas, and red pepper, if using. Cover and cook until heated through. Serve over steaming bowls of rice, couscous or other grain of choice. Serves 6-8.

Nutritional information

Per serving: based on 6, without chicken: 154 calories (percent of calories from fat, 7), 11 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 1 gram fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 466 milligrams sodium. With chicken: 280 calories (percent of calories from fat, 20), 30 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 6 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 54 milligrams cholesterol, 511 milligrams sodium.

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