Chickpea and sweet potato tagine

sweet potato tagineI made this last night, inspired by my most recent meal at Lula Cafe. Lula, which has had some variation of this dish on the menu since it opened, has been my favorite restaurant in Chicago since pretty much then.  Yet, despite the many times I’ve considered skipping over the specials and ordering the tagine, this last visit was the first time I managed it. And, as you can probably guess by this post, it was wonderful. Like all of Lula’s food, it made me feel like I was eating in a way that made everything in my life just a little better. My version is not as good as theirs was. But it’s tasty. And good for you– studies have shown that both ginger and turmeric may decrease inflammation. Because avoiding gluten apparently doesn’t do it all. Life is good but it is not fair. But so it goes. Now. The recipe.

1 Tablespoon butter or ghee or coconut oil (I used butter)
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh turmeric, minced (substitute 1 teaspoon or more dried if you can’t find fresh)
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
sea salt to taste
4 cups cooked chickpeas with their broth (you can substitute 2 small cans but rinse and use fresh water or broth)
1/4 – 1/2 cup golden raisins, to taste

Heat fat in a sturdy, medium-sized saucepan that has a lid over medium heat. Add onions. Saute for a few minutes, stirring a couple of times, then add everything but the chickpeas and broth. Stir to combine and cook for another few minutes. Add the chickpeas and raisins with enough liquid to just cover the ingredients. Partially cover and simmer for a half hour or so, until the sweet potato is soft and the flavors have melded into something greater than their individual components, sweet and smoky and with hints of something mysterious and far away that you’ve always known but never quite known how to find. Or something like that. Serve over mashed cauliflower, quinoa, or rice, topped with a handful of arugula or some other bitter greens. The greens aren’t essential but they provide a nice balance for the sweetness.

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Slow cooker chuck roast with Mortgage Lifter beans from Adobe Milling Company

pot roastThis is so much better than you’d think it would be. Honestly, I added the beans just because I wanted to find some way to use them and thought this might be good. I had no idea it would elevate the dish into something so spectacular. I mean, true, it’s just pot roast. Not something you’d expect from a real chef at a fancy restaurant. But for an at home dinner on a Monday night, a dinner that mostly cooked itself while you’re at work? Can’t beat it. Plus, on a whim, I decided to add turmeric, something I’ve been trying to incorporate into my diet. Because it’s supposed to be really, really good for you. Here, it was not only delicious, it also imparted a wonderful golden hue to the broth. The end result knocked my socks off. And it was super easy. Here’s what I did.

First, I cooked the beans. I used Mortgage Lifter beans, an heirloom Indimortgage lifter beansan (Native American) bean that I picked up at Adobe Milling Company, in Colorado. (www.anasazibeans.com) The woman at the store recommended pre-soaking these enormous beans. I soaked one package (2 cups) overnight, rinsed, and then cooked them in a slow cooker covered with about 1″ of water and a thumb-sized piece of kombu (a sea vegetable that helps with digestion). It took about 4 hours. When the beans were tender, I added about a teaspoon of salt, turned off the heat, and let them cool in their broth. The salt penetrates the bean during the cooling process, seasoning them through. When they were cool, I refrigerated the beans overnight. Although you can add more if you like (handy to stretch the dish to feed more people), you will only need about two cups of cooked beans for this recipe. I froze the rest to use later. If you go that route, just make sure the beans are fully submerged in their cooking liquid.

Second, this morning, I made the roast. The recipe for that is slightly more involved, but not much.

1 3-lb. chuck roast
2 onions, sliced medium
6 carrots, cut into chunks
2 T. cold water
1 T. kuzu (another kind of seaweed) or cornstarch, for thickening
1-1/2 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper
2 cups cooked mortgage lifter or cannellini beans, homemade or canned (if canned, drain and rinse)

Combine the water and kuzu (or cornstarch) in the insert of your slow cooker. Add the onions, carrots, and turmeric. Stir to combine. Wash and dry the roast, then rub the salt and pepper into both sides. Place the roast on top of the vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. About an hour or two before you’re ready to eat, use tongs to turn the roast and add about 2 cups of cooked, drained beans. Just ladle them around the sides. When you’re ready to eat, taste for seasonings. And that’s it! Super simple.  Surprisingly delicious. And a nice way to sneak some healthy beans and turmeric into your diet.