Baharat Kabocha Stew
Baharat lends depth and aromatics to a simply prepared vegan stew. Leaving the rind (which is edible and delicious) on kabocha squash helps the pieces keep their shape, and fregula (a toasted Sardinian pasta similar to couscous), adds body and textural contrast.
In a large soup pot over low heat add the olive oil, onion, and Baharat, and stir well to mix.
Chop the kabocha in half with a sharp knife. This is most easily done by inserting the tip near the stem, then rocking the knife down to the cutting board. Scoop out the seeds and discard, or roast them. Chop the kabocha into approximately 1" pieces, trimming off any rough pieces of rind.
After the onion has softened and become translucent (about 8 minutes), add the kabocha, kombu, fregula, and water to cover. Bring to just below a boil, then taste and adjust with salt and simmer until the kabocha is soft and the fregula is tender (about 15-20 minutes).
Optionally, garnish with a bit of ground cumin, lemon, and olive oil.
* This recipe is vegan, with the kombu seaweed supplying salt and savoriness much like a stock would. It also works great with chicken stock, if you prefer, and will have more body due to the gelatin.
‡ If you can't easily find fregula you can best substitute moghrabieh (Lebanese couscous), which will have a similar texture (dumpling-like), but lacks the toasted flavor (you can always toast it for 20 minutes in a hot oven if you like), or toasted Israeli couscous, which will have closer flavor but a different texture.
Variations & Ideas
• For a creamy soup, peel the kabocha, omit the fregula, and cook for slightly longer to thoroughly soften the squash (about 25 minutes). Then blend and pass through a sieve. I love this served with Chili Oil and some crispy shallots or fried cilantro stems.
• This light stew is also great with small Kofte poached in it. Make them about marble sized, broil them briefly if you'd like to add a bit more flavor, and add them with the kabocha.
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