Last week, three new cookbooks arrived by mail, so for days I’ve been poring over recipes and considering new things to cook. The first to arrive were the two I ordered from Nava Atlas–her new cookbook, Vegetarian Soups for all Seasons, and the bonus copy of Vegetariana. They are both beautifully written and illustrated and Vegetariana is just plain fun to look through.
The third book I ordered was Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and Africa by Habeeb Salloum. I had just begun looking through it when this recipe for Bean and Chickpea Stew caught my eye. It contains pumpkin, and as luck (and my daughter’s incomplete attempt at carving) would have it, I had a small pumpkin in my refrigerator just waiting for me to decide what to do with it.
I made the recipe almost as written, with only three minor changes in ingredients and one major change in technique. I removed the 6 tablespoons (yikes!) of olive oil, increased the harissa from 2 to 3 teaspoons (and it was still a very mild dish), and omitted the 2 tablespoons of cilantro (sorry–though apparently, lots of people like it, it tastes like soap to me). The big change was that I used a pressure cooker to presoak the beans and to speed up the cooking time. In the directions below, I’ll tell how I did it in the pressure cooker and give the original, stove-top time as well.
Tunisian Bean and Chickpea Stew
The book says to serve this with rice, but I used whole wheat couscous. Honestly, it was better without any grain. It has a light, delicate, almost sweet taste that gets lost if diluted by too much grain. I liked it best as a soup, with a little extra harissa stirred in.
- 1 cup dried navy beans (I used cannellini), soaked overnight and drained*
- 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzos), soaked overnight and drained*
- 6 cups water
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 medium tomatoes, chopped, or one 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups raw pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2-4 tsp. harissa (buy it at Middle Eastern stores or make it yourself)
- 1 tsp. paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- parsley, for garnish (optional)
- *I never plan ahead, so of course I didn’t have pre-soaked beans. I did the fast soak in the pressure cooker instead: cover the beans and chickpeas by about 2 inches of water in your p.c., bring it up to high pressure, and cook for 3 minutes at high pressure. Then allow the pressure to come down naturally. Drain and proceed with the recipe.
- Place the drained beans and chickpeas into the pressure cooker with the water. Bring to high pressure and cook for 12 minutes. Allow pressure to come down naturally. (On the stove-top, cook until the beans are soft, adding more water as necessary. Allow about 2 hours for this.)
- While the beans are cooking, heat a non-stick or well-seasoned frying pan, and sauté onions until they are beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic and tomatoes, and cook for another 10 minutes ( 5 minutes for canned tomatoes). Add the tomato mixture, pumpkin, harissa, and seasonings to the beans, and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until pumpkin is very tender, about 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Serve sprinkled with parsley. Makes 8-10 servings.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Nutrition (per serving): 221 calories, 18 calories from fat, 2.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 20.4mg sodium, 908.8mg potassium, 40.8g carbohydrates, 12.7g fiber, 8g sugar, 12.2g protein, 6.5 points.