Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

An unopened bottle of orange blossom water had been occupying precious real estate in our fridge for months as I debated the best thing to do with it. Finally I opened the bottle, just to smell. One whiff is all it took, and my thoughts were drifting away on a cloud of delicate blooms — soft and white, immensely fragrant. From that cloud, I landed in a darkly lit room, sitting at a large round table surrounded by smiling faces. My tenth birthday party.

We perch on round, gilded pillows at a low table. Silky fabrics hang from the ceiling, lining the walls and giving the room a sense of mystery. Someone has given me a warm, floral-scented cloth for cleaning my hands. A waiter is sprinkling us ceremoniously with orange blossom water, and the droplets land on my shoulders like the sweetest rain that ever rained. Talk about feeling like Queen for the day.

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

There are candles artfully lighting the space, but the most notable ones are balancing on a women’s body. A belly dancer. She gracefully juggles fire from her head to her elbows and back again, never missing a beat. We eat couscous, chicken with almonds, and b’stella pastry (a dish my dad would later take to making at home).

When it is time for tea, it is time for the greatest show of all. The waiter stacks drinking flutes in a pyramid. He makes a show of pouring the mint concoction from an ornate tea pot, starting with the top glass, and pouring until it pools over, filling the next two. The cascade continues, until each glass is full. (In my mind, the memory is almost a dream-state. I can’t quite figure out the physics of these glasses. How is it that they only spill in two directions? Did they have little spouts? Did he actually pour into glasses individually, and it is my memory that falters?)

We each take a glass and sip. It is, to this day, glorified as the best cup of mint tea I’ve ever had.

To say the least, I’ve been on a Moroccan food kick since I stole a breath of that orange blossom water in the fridge. I bought The Food of Morocco (affiliate link) and searched for something reminiscent of that day. I bought harissa paste and slivered almonds and actually started to use the orange blossom water.

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato
Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

The flavors of Moroccan food are so different from what you find in other cuisines. Flowers take on a large role. Both roses and orange blossoms. Herbs are used fresh. Citrus is a star of the show. Lamb, goat, cumin, paprika; Roses, pomegranate, dried fruits.

But, this stew is not traditional. It was never supposed to be. Rather, it’s approachable. It’s a one-pot wonder that has been Americanized, Instant Pot-ized, and everyday dinner-ized. It doesn’t ask you to buy a bottle of orange blossom water, which you would surely have to get at a specialty store (or on Amazon (affiliate link), like me). It also calls for quinoa in place of couscous (Couscous is a hand rolled pasta, so not GF, despite it’s millet-y looking appearance). The recipe calls for ingredients you know, but combines them with Moroccan flare in mind. Cumin — lots of cumin. Paprika. Turmeric. And cinnamon, a small amount, something we rarely add to savory dishes here in the US.

I know it’s starting to look a lot like spring in somewhere, but here — and lots of places - it will still be winter for at least a month. On a snowy evening, this stew is absolutely warming and cozy. Just my style.

For the curious: The restaurant I had my tenth birthday at, Boulder’s Mataam Fez, has since closed. There is a Mataam Fez in Denver that provides a similar (but IMO, not quite as magical) experience. Plan to make an evening of it.

Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

Published March 5, 2019 by
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Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 45 minutes



Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cubed
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, strained
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • For serving: minced parsley or cilantro

  • Directions:

    1. In the bottom of an Instant Pot, heat coconut oil using the Sauté setting. When oil glistens, add onion, garlic, ginger and celery and sauté until onion is transparent.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
    3. Secure lid on Instant Pot and press the “Manual” button. Set to “high pressure” (labeled “more” on some models) and set timer for 1 minutes with vent in the sealed position.
    4. When the timer goes off, turn off the Instant Pot and allow it to set for 10 minutes with out releasing the steam. This will ensure the quinoa is cooked through.
    5. After 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure. Stir, and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.

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    Greek Chicken Kabobs

    Greek Chicken Kabobs

    For the last two years, any time I’ve shot photos for blog posts I’ve done so by occupying this little 4 foot by 2-1/2 foot corner in the kitchen. It is wedged between the door to our garage, the side of a kitchen cabinet and the sliding glass door to the back yard. Other than completely blocking anyone access to the garage (or access to the house from the garage), the spot was perfect because it had good light between the hours of 8am and 3pm virtually all year ‘round, and it was conveniently located in the kitchen.

    But then I started shooting videos. And oh did I learn so much! Natural light for photography is one thing — a beautiful thing - but you start shooting videos and suddenly you notice how the tiniest cloud can render one scene completely blueish. (EX: You can watch the colors of the background on this sheet pan fajitas video change throughout the whole scene. Yikes!).

    So I dove in an purchased a set of “YouTuber” lights. So far I’m still learning how to use the ones I purchased (affiliate link). The light from the bulbs that came with them are a little pinker than I expected. BUT owning lights has opened up a whole new world for me — a world where I can shoot recipes outside of the hours of 9am and 3pm! And since I’m usually at work from 9-5pm, this is a BIG FREAKIN’ DEAL.

    Remember that tiny corner of the kitchen I mentioned? Yes well, me and my three lights don’t fit there. At least, not with a plate of food, too. So, a few weeks ago, I made it my mission to take over our under-used office/spare bedroom and turn it into a studio. (!!!)

    With the walls painted with a fresh coat of white and the closet rearranged to accommodate my photography gear, these Greek Chicken Kabobs were one of the first dishes to “test run” the new studio. All of this has given me a whole new level of motivation for house projects (I was running out of steam).

    And now you’re thinking, OKAY WE GET IT but what about the kabobs? Let’s do it:

    Greek Chicken Kabobs
    Greek Chicken Kabobs

    There are two ways to cook this mix of chicken and veggies in a lemon-oregano marinade: grilled, or baked.

    Grilled, string everything onto skewers for kabobs. Roast on high until the juices run clear — about 12 minutes total, 6 on each side. You’ll get that fire-touched smokey flavor on the chicken and the onions and the tomatoes. This option is wonderful in the middle of summer, when you are out exploring (camping, at a park, at a potluck, etc), or when you just want to avoid turning on the oven.

    Baked, you can skip the skewers and spread everything out on a sheet pan. Roast it all at 450°F for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. On a sheet pan, the juices from the tomatoes, mushrooms, and chicken swirl together in the pan, creating a flavorful pan sauce. It makes the dish juicy which is delicious over rice. This version is best for weeknights or wintertime — when lighting the grill (or even going outside) is off the table.

    In both versions, the chicken turns out super tender, thanks to the lemony marinade. That same marinade is what gives the whole dish it’s Greek-inspired flavor. They are a little spot of sunshine in the middle of a wintery week, but also perfect for summer grilling season (once that finally arrives!).

    Greek Chicken Kabobs

    Published January 29, 2018 by
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    Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 30 minutes



    Ingredients:

    For the chicken:
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cubed

  • For the kabobs:
  • 1 red onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup mushrooms (crimini, baby bella, or white)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons minced parsley

  • Directions:

    1. Marinate the chicken: in an airtight container, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and salt. Add chicken, and stir to combine. Close container and place in fridge for at least 4 hours (up to 24).
    2. For grilling: Light and preheat grill to high.
    3. For oven: Preheat oven to 450°F.
    4. Place chopped veggies and olives in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and stir so everything is coated.
    5. Assemble kabobs: Working with one kabob stick at a time, skewer chicken, vegetables and olives in an alternating pattern. (If you plan to roast in the oven, you can skip this step, and simply spread everything out on a sheet pan).
    6. For grilling: Place kabobs on preheated grill and reduce heat to medium-high. Grill, with the lid closed, for 6 minutes, and then turn kabobs and grill on second side for another 6 minutes. Juices should run clear and chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Remove from grill and serve hot over a bed of rice. Garnish with parsley. For oven: Place sheet pan in pre-heated oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Remove from oven and use a spatula to serve over rice. Spoon juices from pan over top. Garnish with parsley.

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    Slow Cooker Mole Chicken Tacos

    Slow Cooker Mole Chicken Tacos

    There is a lot of folk lore surrounding the creation of mole poblano — the chocolate chili sauce Mexico is so known for.

    One theory is that a convent of nuns invented mole for an archbishop in an effort to impress him, when no other ingredients could be found. Another story says that it was all a mistake, that a monk (rather than a nun) first made the dish for the archbishop when he accidentally knocked several stray spices into the pot. Either way, both versions tie the sauce back to over 300 years ago!

    It’s no wonder there is so much speculation over the dish’s origins… mole sauce recipes typically call for a hefty list of seemingly random ingredients. But that’s part of the magic: it may not strike you that raisins and tomatoes and chili powder and cocoa will blend well together, but sure enough, the result is stellar. Spicy, tangy, with a rich backdrop, thanks to the chocolate.

    Slow Cooker Mole Chicken Tacos
    Slow Cooker Mole Chicken Tacos

    Something else stays consistent across almost every origin story, and that’s that mole is for special occasions. My dad will slave over a batch of mole for Christmas dinner; and me? I usually save it for a day when I know I can sit down and really take the time to enjoy the meal.

    Such a complex sauce does not need many frills. Simmer some chicken (or turkey, or pork, or black beans, or whatever you have) until tender, and then serve simply. All you need for a fancy taco is a corn tortilla, some chicken in mole sauce and a sprinkle of cilantro. A few thin slices of red onion certainly brighten it up, and why not — a few pepitas on top for crunch (you have them out from making the sauce, anyhow). Now, this isn’t the traditional way to serve mole, which is over a bed of rice, but it’s easy nonetheless, and everything is delicious as a taco.

    Slow Cooker Mole Chicken Tacos

    Slow Cooker Mole Chicken Tacos

    Published December 18, 2018 by
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    Serves: 6-8   |    Active Time: 60 active minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce, plus 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce from the can (find canned chipotles in adobo in the Mexican section of your grocery store. Most canned have quite a few peppers, use a spoon to scoop out two)
  • 1 16-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup pepitas, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 2-3 inches long)
  • For serving: corn tortillas, cilantro, finely sliced red onion

  • Directions:

    1. In a skillet, or the bottom of you Instant Pot/Slow Cooker (set to the Sauté setting), heat coconut oil and sauté onion and garlic until onion is transparent. Turn off heat once onions are cooked.
    2. Transfer the onion mixture to a blender, and add cocoa, chili powder, chipotles and adobo sauce, canned tomatoes, cumin, coriander, anise, black pepper, salt, ground cloves, pepitas, sesame seeds, and raisins. Place lid on blender and purée until smooth.
    3. Place chicken in the bottom of your Instant Pot/Slow Cooker. Pour sauce over top, and add cinnamon stick. Place lid on pot and set to slow cook on “medium” for 6 hours or “high” for 4 hours.
    4. When timer goes off, cut chicken into bite-sized pieces (should fall apart easily) and serve in warm tortillas topped with fresh cilantro, red onion, and pepitas.

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