One of our incentive perks for bigger donors was to challenge the Le Bon Chef team to create a recipe using the ingredient of their choice. Our first big donor requested something with corn smut. We posted on that previously. Our next generous donor, Precise Construction of Dallas, TX, requested a recipe with saffron and cilantro. Tracy sat down to research what she thought was an odd combination and discovered a whole new world of culinary delight. What follows is her journey.
Saffron or Cilantro. That was the request for the recipe. It must include saffron and cilantro. At first, I was stymied. I think of cilantro as an essential ingredient for my favorite salsa, on a fish taco, or even in guacamole. In other words, I’ve pretty much only used it in Mexican food. And saffron, that exotic, expensive ingredient I’ve only used in French Boulliabaise. Silly me… a little research and I found that all over the Middle East and Northern Africa, cilantro and saffron share the spotlight.
My first stab was a chickpea stew with saffron, spinach and chickpeas (of course). It was kind of blah until I threw in a large handful of cilantro. That freshened things up a bit. But I still wasn’t satisfied.
Then I found a recipe for Moroccan Soup on FoodieCrush.com. Butternut squash, potatoes, kale, fire roasted tomatoes, and chickpeas with a whole bunch of aromatics, spices and finished with lots of cilantro. Finding fire roasted tomatoes was an issue. The only ones I found were from Ro-tel with green chiles added. So, I gave that a shot. Wow, that was hotter than I expected. But after the initial back burn, the chiles faded and the soup was nearly addictive. One problem with the chiles is that they really overpowered any trace of the saffron, though the potatoes turned a lovely hue of orange thanks to its presence.
A little online sleuthing and I found organic fire-roasted tomatoes from Muir Glen. Bingo! That did it. No more back burn and the flavor was more nuanced. I decreased the chickpeas in the recipe, added extra squash, and used Lacinato Kale which maintained its dark green color and structure through the stewing process.
Now, should you decide to make this recipe and forgo the très cher saffron, keep the chiles and add a touch of turmeric for color. And keep some lemon water handy to soothe the burn!
Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Cilantro and Saffron
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon saffron threads
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons fresh ground coriander seed
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 14-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes in their juice
5 cups vegetable broth
5 cups butternut squash
2 cups russet potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
4 cups chopped Lacinato kale
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in the saffron, cinnamon sticks, coriander and ground cumin and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spices are fragrant.
2. Add the diced tomatoes and their juice, chicken broth, butternut squash and potato and bring to a boil. Season with kosher salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the squash and potatoes are fork tender.
3. Stir in the chickpeas and chopped kale and simmer for 5 minutes or until chickpeas are warmed through and the kale starts to wilt.
4. Stir in ½ cup cilantro leaves and serve. Garnish each serving with remaining cilantro.
Try the recipe and let us know how it turns out.
— Tracy Schott, director/Le Bon Chef
If you love food as much as we do, you will love Le Bon Chef. It’s CHEF meets THELMA AND LOUISE. Or BURNT meets DEVIL WEARS PRADA. In other words it’s funny, sharp, and all about food. Follow the progress by signing up for the e-newsletter.