real life test kitchen: moroccan-spiced vegetables with saffron quinoa


Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Morocco — or even a Moroccan restaurant, honestly. I have, however, become obsessed with its flavors: bold, smoky harissa and lots of earthy, warming spices like cumin and cinnamon countered by the bracing sharpness of pomegranate and sweetness of dried fruits. Moroccan food, it seems, is all about balance: a perfect blend of spicy, savory, sweet, and sour. That’s what my dish is trying to humbly achieve, as well: starting with simple pan-roasted onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes dusted with spices, tossed with chopped prunes and spinach, and laid to rest over a golden bed of saffron-scented quinoa. Oh, and there’s some chopped pistachios and Mary’s obsession, pomegranate seeds, as the crowning glory. Feel free to add proteins as you like to this — I added some leftover smoked chicken breast, and some merguez sausage would be lovely as well — but the vegetables and quinoa themselves make for a hearty and protein-packed meal that’s just as fantastic cold the next day! — Megan B. Click for Morrocan-spiced vegetables!

Moroccan-spiced Vegetables with Saffron Quinoa
serves 4-6

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 red onions, cut into large chunks (around the same size as the sweet potatoes)
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 1/2 cups of baby spinach
1/4 cups of chopped prunes
1/4 cups of chopped pistachio nuts (shelled, of course)
1 oz pomegranate seeds (as garnish)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp smoked hot paprika
2 tbs grapeseed oil, plus more for the pan if needed
2-3 tbs balsamic vinegar (or cider vinegar)
chopped cilantro (as garnish)

Preheat your oven to 425F while you prep your veggies.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat for three minutes. Toss the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic in a bowl with the oil and spices, add oil, and throw into the hot skillet. Saute for about three minutes, just until they start to glisten a bit, and transfer to the hot oven. Once the veggies go in the oven, start the quinoa.

Roast the veggies until tender, about 10 minutes. Take pan out of the oven, return to the burner at low, and add the vinegar, scraping up the browned bits in the pan. Add spinach and prunes, and toss until the spinach is lightly wilted. Taste for seasoning, adding more vinegar, spices, or salt as needed.

Serve over the fluffed up quinoa and top with the chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds, and cilantro. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
2 cups low sodium stock (vegetable or chicken)
Pinch of saffron threads (about seven)
Salt to taste

Add quinoa, stock, and saffron to a lidded pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving.

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