The vegetables in this hugely flavorful stew are available all year long at your corner grocery store. But the best time to make this dish is at the end of summer and the beginning of fall – the tomatoes are at their juiciest during this time, and so are the just-picked red bell peppers! Together, they bring a marvelous sweetness to the stew, and it’s further balanced with pungent roasted spices and smoky Pimentón Dulce.
An easy vegetarian stew — but even easier, and tastier, when refrigerated for a day or two and served as leftovers!
As in many stews, the flavors in this one get deeper with a little bit of rest. So whenever I make a batch, I either refrigerate or freeze half of it, knowing that on a busy night I can simply reheat the stew and a delicious, healthy dinner is on the table in minutes!
Food & wine pairing: Rioja, Tempranillo with chickpea stew
A Spanish stew calls for a Spanish wine, and a Tempranillo from Rioja fits the bill perfectly! The wine’s characteristic notes of tobacco, leather and spice pair magnificently with the flavorful, slightly smoky stew; while its inherent acidity complements the tomato base.
Spanish chickpea stew served with toasted couscous
serves 4 to 6
active time: 1 hr
For the toasted couscous
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups instant couscous
- 2 cups spring water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For the stew
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium Spanish or yellow onions – skinned and cut in 1/4″ pieces (3 1/2 cups)
- 2 medium red bell peppers – cut in 1/4″ cubes (2 1/2 cups)
- 1 medium green bell pepper – cut in 1/4″ cubes (1 1/4 cups)
- 4 garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Pimentón Dulce (smoked Spanish sweet paprika)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 3 lbs (1.4 kg) very ripe tomatoes – peeled, seeded (seeds strained and juices reserved) or one 28 oz (795 g) can whole, peeled plum tomatoes plus 1/4 cup spring water – puréed in a food processor
- 1/2 cup reserved chickpea cooking liquid or spring water
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons Amontillado sherry (or Marsala)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley as garnish
- Step 1: To make the couscous – Bring a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the couscous and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the couscous is pale-golden, stirring or shaking the pan frequently. Turn off the heat and add the water and salt. Stir well, cover the pot and let stand for 20 minutes, flaking the couscous with a fork once or twice to prevent it from making clumps. Keep the pot covered until ready to serve.
- Step 2: Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and sauté until they turn a dark color and are fragrant (about 2 minutes), shaking the pan continuously. Transfer to a mortar and grind until coarsely ground.
- Step 3: Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions and sauté for 2 minutes, until the onions start to sweat. Add the peppers and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes until golden, tossing only occasionally. Add the garlic, ground cumin and coriander, Pimentón Dulce and cayenne and sauté for 1 minute until the spices release their flavor. Add the puréed tomatoes, the reserved chickpea cooking liquid and the chickpeas. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium/medium-low, cover the pot and slow-simmer for 20 minutes until the stew has slightly thickened, stirring from time to time to prevent the stew from sticking to the pot. Uncover the pot and continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to reduce the stew. The sauce should be thick but neither dry nor liquidy. Add the salt and sherry, stir well and simmer for 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the stew with the toasted couscous and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
- Cook’s note: The stew can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.
- If you prefer serving a whole grain with this stew, then quinoa is the perfect candidate. It’s almost as light as couscous and has a wonderful nutty flavor.