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I started out wanting to make a simple pureed carrot soup. But then I just kept thinking of more and more ingredients I wanted to add, and I realized that what I really wanted was to recreate one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I’m talking about a giant bowl of assorted Moroccan food that I got from the food court at the Louvre Museum, in France.

The first and only time I went to Paris on a college class trip, we were primarily there to visit all the museums and sketch the landscapes. As an art college graduate I’m embarrassed to admit that I found the trip a leeeeeeetle bit dull, but that might have just been because I didn’t really know any of the other students. Besides the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower, the main thing I really remember about that trip was that fantastic Moroccan food in the Louvre food court, from a little spot called Salam. I will never forget it! I think it was the first time I tried cinnamon in a savory dish, or maybe the first time I ever tried anything with that many intense spices, but I was just in heaven. So if you ever go to France, you already know what attraction I recommend. And yes it’s a museum food court buffet. Ah, I’m so classy.

Moroccan Spice Stew

Makes about 5 big servings

2 large carrots

1 red onion

1 sweet green pepper (I used a banana pepper)

4 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil

20 small green olives, slivered + 5 for garnish

5 dates, slivered (or 1/3 cup golden raisins)

8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne

1.5 tsp salt, or to taste

4 ounces tomato paste

4 cups vegetable stock

1 15 oz can chickpeas (or about 2 1/2 cups soaked from dry beans)

1/4 cup slivered toasted almonds

a few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

Start by chopping the carrots into a very small dice. I made the mistake of cutting them into to big chunks, and they cook at a much slower rate that all the rest of the ingredients, so I had to cook longer and thus blend the flavors more than I wanted. So a small dice. Next dice up the onion and green pepper. Heat the oil in a large cast iron pot or similar, and add the carrot, onion, green pepper, olives, and dates. Sauté on medium/high heat for about 10 minutes, until everything is softened.

Next add the garlic, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cayenne, and salt, and stir for 1 additional minute. If it gets to dry and starts to stick to the pan at any point, just give it a little splash of the vegetable stock.

Now add the tomato paste and vegetable stock, stirring well to incorporate everything. After about 5 minutes add the chickpeas and stir them in. Give it a taste, adjust the seasoning to your liking, and continue cooking on medium/high for about 5 minutes. Test a carrot, if it seems cooked through, you are done! If you want a bit milder tasting stew, you can continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes on medium/low, which will allow all the really striking flavors-like olive and date and onion- to meld together. I personally like the flavor explosion sensation of cooking everything just enough to maintain their individuality.

Serve over a heaping pile of couscous or just in a bowl as is. Garnish with the toasted almond slivers, olive slivers, and chopped parsley, maybe some black pepper. Dig in!

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