Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Slow Cooker Cauliflower Mediterranean Stew with Harissa

      This month's recipe redux theme is inspired by recent food trends of smoky flavors and spicy foods. I am not a big fan of spicy foods, but have become more daring recently! Capsasin found in spicy foods like chili peppers have been shown to have positive health benefits including reducing cravings for fatty and sugary foods as well as increasing your metabolism. Depending on your heat tolerance chili peppers are a great addition to a variety of dishes.

       I decided to heat things up with a Mediterranean chili pepper paste called Harissa. Harissa is made with  roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, chili peppers and other seasonings including garlic paste, coriander and caraway seeds. It packs a punch of heat and is full of flavor. It can be used as a rub on meats and fish or added to grains like coucous or to stews. Harissa can be found in the ethnic section of most grocery stores or Middle Eastern grocers.
       With the winter season here in full swing, I decided to add the harissa to a stew using seasonal produce and bring in some sun and warmth by adding in Mediterranean ingredients including chickpeas and Freekeh. Freekeh is a whole grain used in Mediterranean cuisine that is made from young green wheat that has been roasted. Its taste and texture reminds me of barley or brown rice but it contains three times as much protein and fiber per serving.
         I decided to use my new stove top safe slow cooker for this recipe.  That's right, the insert can be used on the stove making cooking and clean up a breeze! I was able to sauté some of the vegetables on the stove then move the pot into the slow cooker to finish cooking. Cooking the stew over low heat helped impart the heat and flavors to all the ingredients in this dish.

The recipe below is moderate in heat. To increase the heat add one additional tablespoon of harissa, or for a mild heat cut back one tablespoon of harissa.

Slow Cooker Cauliflower Mediterranean Stew with Harissa
 Servings: 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ tablespoons harissa (can substitute with Sriracha or chili paste)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup freekeh, uncooked (can substitute with barley, quinoa or brown rice)
1. Heat a skillet or stove top safe crockpot over medium heat. Add in olive oil to heat then add in onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in cumin, coriander, curry powder, cinnamon, harissa and tomato paste and sauté for 2 minutes longer.
2. Move ingredients to slow cooker and add in all remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. 
3. Remove bay leaves before serving.

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  1. Yum! Harissa is such a great way to add heat and flavour to dishes. This stew sounds so healthy and delicious- just what I love!

  2. I love Harissa! And I am using so much cauliflower recently, this is great!

    1. Thanks! The cauliflower soaks up all the flavor and heat from the harissa, it's so yummy!