“Ah. Where has the time gone?” I feel like I say that to myself every year as I log in to WordPress, blow off the dust, and proceed writing as if I’m catching up with an old friend.
2020, 2021, and 2022 felt like they were one, crazy, never-ending superyear where there were beautiful, happy, exciting moments and some tragic, frustrating low points all jumbled together. The “new normal” got redefined countless times. Whatever that means now as we’ve headed into the first couple of weeks of 2023 is to be determined, but if 2020 in a single word was “chaos” then 2021 was a “rollercoaster.” 2022 was a state of “transition” and the year that Dave and I officially became homeowners. Now, it’s our hope that 2023 will be, simply, “calm.”
I could spend so much time talking about the emotions, both happy and sad, of the last several years, and maybe in due time, I will. In this specific moment, though, I’m processing the fact that I’ve had a personal blog/website of some format for 22 years…
Looking at it another way: my very first domain that people knew about, burned-bridges.com, was registered in 2001 after making the leap from creating single-page Expages and later multi-page Geocities websites, with frames, GIF animations, Midi background music and all! B-B.net, if it was still “alive” in its previous format and a human being residing in the U.S., could drink by now. Yikes.
Call me nostalgic, but it seemed fitting to revisit a recipe that I published on my other “OG” blog, fuchsia-revolver.org (still “alive” but inactive and about to be permanently redirected here), in 2009: Chickpea stew. This recipe was one of the first that inspired me to come over here to a new domain and start my foodie adventures properly in 2016.
I transitioned some of those older recipes from F-R.org to this site, and chickpea stew was republished in 2017, one of the first dozen things I posted on this site.
For my 2023 version, I have my eye on simplicity. We’re busy these days. Hell, we were busy before, but more so now, as not only “working professionals” but with a new title of “married homeowners” added in the mix. 😉
Most of the original recipe stands as far as veggies are concerned, a backbone of fiber- and nutrition-rich sweet potatoes and chickpeas included. I’ve updated the measurements of the original recipe and introduced an even simpler spice lineup in the form of harissa spice, fennel seeds, and smoked paprika. Oh, and it also gets all put in a crockpot—or InstaPot, if you prefer, since this is 2023. (I never made a leap to using an InstaPot since I already had a crockpot.)
Depending on how fast you chop your veggies—or don’t, if you choose to buy pre-chopped mirepoix (my advice is don’t, but whatever, I won’t judge you if you do)—you’re looking at about a half hour of prep, and the rest is inactive cook time. Start this recipe if you’ve got time in the morning before work, or the night before as I usually prefer to do, and you’re golden for dinner that night.
Harissa is a flavorful paste made from garlic, peppers, and spices that originates from North Africa. It has a lot of garlicky, peppery, smoky flavor. Truthfully, I’ve always purchased it from the store, in a pre-made jar usually found somewhere around the ketchup and other prepared condiments, sometimes alternatively in the Mediterranean or Italian international foods section of the store. It’s excellent simply mixed with softened butter to make a favorable spread for toast, but also excellent to toss around with some root vegetables prior to roasting in the oven.
My other favorite use of harissa is in spice format. It’s a blend of the same ingredients including garlic, dried ground chilies, smoked salt, coriander, cumin, and oregano. I first saw and purchased a harissa spice blend at William’s Sonoma several years ago, and since then have also seen it in my supermarket spice aisle. It’s great as a dry rub for meats, such as chicken or steak, before grilling. I also commonly use it in soups and stews, making this a perfect recipe for it.
If I had some preserved lemons in my pantry or fridge, I’d try them out here, because I think they could make a delicious addition. I’ll test and report back another time, but for now, I am recommending serving with a squirt of lemon and fresh parsley on top. Some sort of carb for dipping would be great, otherwise over a bed of couscous as my original recipe suggested is also nice.
Warming, comforting vegetarian stew recipe From Anna's Kitchen. Recipe is written to be made in a crockpot for easy preparation. The addition of cashews and raisins at the end is optional but delicious if you have them in your pantry to add during the last half-hour of cooking.
- 3 cups sweet potatoes diced small; from about 2 small or 1 large sweet potato
- 1 cup celery diced
- 1 cup red bell pepper diced
- 1 cup carrots diced
- 1 cup onion diced
- 28 ounces whole tomatoes canned
- 13.4 ounces chickpeas canned or boxed
- 3 teaspoons chicken Better than Bouillon paste For vegetarian/vegan recipe, substitute vegetable Better than Bouillon
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 sun dried tomatoes whole, packed in oil
- 16 ounces water
- 2 teaspoons harissa spice such as Simply Organic or William's Sonoma
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon Fresh black pepper On my Le Creuset pepper mill, this is about 20 turns
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
- ½ cup toasted, unsalted cashews (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- lemon wedges (optional, for serving)
- Fresh parsley (optional, roughly chopped, for serving)
In a crockpot, add all cut vegetables and can of whole tomatoes. Crush each tomato in your hand lightly prior to adding to the crockpot bowl, along with juice from tomatoes.
Add spices, sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken (or vegetable) Better than Bouillon paste, and water to crockpot and stir.
Set crockpot for 6.5 hours on low and start. Stir periodically as it's cooking.
About a half hour before cooking is finished, add raisins and cashews, if using, and stir in.
Serve hot topped with parsley and a squeeze of lemon, and accompanied with cooked couscous or crusty bread, naan, or pita.