Morrocan Spiced Chickpeas and Squash

Morrocan Spiced Chickpeas and Squash
Packed and ready to take for lunch.

This recipe is a modification of a much fancier dish with a beautiful presentation found on the BBC site, Moroccan Spiced Pie, which they credit to Good Food magazine, Vegetarian Christmas 2006. I modified it for several reasons:
  1. The first time I made it following the recipe it looked nothing like the picture. I appreciate the BBC's description of wrapping it up in "voluptuous folds" of filo dough, but baby, there was nothing voluptuous about those folds when I did this--more like skimpy and unconvincing. Maybe filo sheets are bigger in the UK. This was a lot of work for not enough return, as the filo layers mostly just fell off once you started cutting into the dish.
  2. Filo dough is a pain in the patootie to work with. I love the flaky layers but I can stand to wait for my next piece of baklava to experience them. That's also a very time-consuming step and if that's stopping you from experiencing the flavors in this dish, it shouldn't.
  3. By leaving off the whole filo step I also eliminate a lot of butter, making this a healthier recipe.
  4. Leaving off the filo leaves me free to serve this over a bed of any type of cooked grain I choose. It becomes a gluten-free recipe without the filo and you can keep it that way. So far I've served it over brown rice, quinoa, and farro, and all of these were delicious.
  5. I made it a lot faster and eliminated some of the clean-up by dropping the hummus-making step and just throwing in all the ingredients of the hummus. The hummus didn't really work well for me anyway in the elaborate layering plan--you're spreading something smooth over something lumpy and then it's all wrapped up and doesn't show, so what's the point?
  6. Once I dropped the filo step I also eliminated an additional baking step, making for a faster prep. Note that I had to cook the squash longer and at a higher temperature than the original version in order to cook it enough.
Herewith, my corner-cutting version, which makes approximately 12 cups:

Moroccan Spiced Chickpeas and Squash
  • 2 t. each coriander and cumin seeds (Out of the actual seeds? Toast the ground spices briefly in a dry pan.)
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 T olive oil 
  • 900g squash, peeled, seeded,* and cut into small chunks (about 2cm) (this is a butternut squash on the smallish side)
Dry fry the seeds briefly in a small pan over a medium heat until toasty--don't let them burn. Grind coarsely using a pestle and mortar (or a bowl and the end of a rolling pin), then mix in the paprika, cinnamon, salt and oil. Tip the squash into a roasting tin, pour over the spiced oil and toss. Roast for 30 minutes in a 400-degree oven (or longer in a 350-degree oven), until the squash is soft when you poke it with a fork.
  • 2 T olive oil (I've toyed with the idea of using coconut oil here for flavor, although it would increase the saturated fat. If you do, tell me how it turns out.)
  • 12 shallots, quartered (~12 oz.—roughly equivalent to one onion, which I use since I usually don't have shallots on hand. Red onion would be especially nice.)
  • 4cm/1½ in piece root ginger, finely chopped (~15-16g, or around 1-1/2 T)
  • 140g whole blanched almonds (1 cup)
  • 140g shelled pistachios (1 cup)
  • 75g dried cranberries (2/3 cup)
  • 2 T clear honey or maple syrup (which would make it vegan)
  • 225g fresh spinach, preferably baby spinach (one of those plastic boxes of spinach has 170 grams so get lots; you could always serve this over fresh spinach instead of a grain)
  • Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (425g)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1 t. ground cumin (If you like things pretty spicy and you're not adding the Yogurt Harissa Sauce, increase cumin by 1/2 to 1 t.)
While the squash is baking, heat 2 T olive oil in a frying pan, add the shallots or onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown. Add the crushed garlic and cumin and stir a couple of minutes, then stir in the ginger, almonds and pistachios.When brown, toss in the cranberries, honey, and the spinach so it wilts. Take off the heat and stir into the squash when it comes out of the oven. 

Stir in at the last minute before serving so flavors are fresh:
  • 3 T lemon juice, or zest and juice of one fresh lemon
  • 4 T chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 T chopped fresh mint
Cooked this way, 1 cup of this has 328 calories with 19 grams of fat ( analysis)--far less than the 978 calories with 66 grams of fat the BBC version has. Even if one of their servings is 2 cups, this is a healthier version by far.

The step I haven't followed that I will one of these days--Harissa Yogurt Sauce to top it:
  • 200g carton Greek yogurt (1 cup)
  • 6 T milk
  • 3 large sprigs mint, leaves chopped
  • 2-3 T harissa paste
Mix the yogurt and milk together to make a thin sauce, stir in the herbs and season. Swirl in harissa to taste. Drizzle over the top. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.

Flavor note: This is a savory-sweet and fairly mild dish when made without the Yogurt Harissa Sauce. You can oomph up the flavors with the addition of more cumin, as noted, and you might want to add 1/2 to 1 t. ground black pepper. Increasing the lemon would also zing it up. I've considered drizzling a fruity balsamic vinegar over the top; I have a bottle of fig balsamic that calls out to be used this way.

*Save the squash seeds. I drop them into a small bowl with water to cover because someone once told me to--I have no idea if this affects the way they bake up. After you take the squash out of the roasting pan and mix it with the chickpea/spinach step, separate the seeds from the stringy squash guts and spread them in the pan, tossing with what remains of the seasoned oil. Roast around 9-11 minutes or so. When you hear them start to pop like popcorn, take them out. Crunchy goodness that you might even want to sprinkle on top of this recipe.
Layered with quinoa and farro.

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