Celebrate Heart Month by treating your loved ones to a Moroccan-inspired Valentine’s Day meal. Begin the night with a flavorful, gently braised fish stew reminiscent of a Moroccan tagine*. The stew can be prepared in advance and quickly finished right before serving. Top off the night with a beautiful display of heart-healthy fruits and nuts served with piping hot mint tea.
*Tagine refers to both a North African slow-simmered stew as well as the familiar conical earthenware pot in which it is often cooked.
Moroccan-Inspired Braised Fish Stew
Fresh lemon and a dose of warm spices give this easy low-sodium stew robust flavor. A rainbow of vegetables with heart-healthy chickpeas and fish combine to create a meal that is low in fat, sodium and cholesterol and high in protein, fiber and vitamin C. If desired, cod which is high in B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, can be replaced by another mild white fish that will hold its shape while cooking.
To make vegetarian or vegan: Omit the fish and replace with an additional can of chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas before adding and reserve ¼ cup of aquafaba (the chickpea liquid). Cook according to the recipe, adding the reserved liquid when the fish would otherwise be added.
|1 teaspoon paprika|
|½ teaspoon cinnamon|
|½ teaspoon ground ginger|
|½ teaspoon coriander|
|½ teaspoon turmeric|
|½ teaspoon cumin|
|1 small lemon, thin-skinned*|
|2 teaspoons olive oil|
|1 medium onion, chopped|
|2 medium carrot, thinly sliced on the bias|
|2 bell peppers, any color, thinly sliced|
|3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced|
|1 15-ounce can chickpeas, no salt added, rinsed and drained|
|1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added|
|1 pound cod cut into 4 equal pieces|
|Cilantro, chopped, to taste|
|Optional: whole wheat couscous or quinoa for serving.|
*Note to the cook: Look for a lemon that is thin-skinned. It will be less bitter. Boiling the lemon briefly before cooking also helps remove the bitterness that can sometimes occur when cooking with fresh lemon. The boiled and chopped lemon slices give a delicious punch of flavor to the stew. If a more subtle flavor is desired, replace chopped lemon with a small amount of lemon zest.
- In a small bowl combine paprika, cinnamon, ground ginger, coriander, turmeric and cumin and set aside. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Remove the ends and cut the lemon into thin slices, removing any seeds. Add half the lemon slices to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove slices and thoroughly drain. Chop the slices, rind and all, and set aside until ready to use. Reserve the rest of the lemon slices for later use.
- Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with lid. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add carrot and pepper slices and cook until slightly tender, another 10 to 12 minutes. Add garlic, pre-measured spices, and cooked, chopped lemon and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- Add drained chickpeas and canned tomatoes with juices to the Dutch oven; stir well to combine. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally or until vegetables are tender. If preparing ahead of time, remove from heat, cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to proceed. If finishing the dish now, nestle 4 pieces of cod into the simmering mixture. Cover pot and continue cooking until fish is cooked through, about 6 to 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Remove from heat and serve immediately garnished with fresh cilantro and additional fresh lemon slices.
Fruit and Nut Platter
For dessert, offer a simple shared platter full of heart-healthy fruits and nuts, like pomegranate seeds, orange slices, grapes, unsalted almonds and pistachios. To include dried fruits, select those that are naturally sweet and have no added sugar like dates and unsweetened apricots. Serve dessert with hot mint tea made from store-bought tea bags.
Moroccan-Inspired Braised Fish Stew
|Calories||295||Total Fat||4 g|
|Saturated Fat||0 g||Monounsaturated Fat||2 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||0 g||Trans Fat||0 g|
|Cholesterol||20 mg||Sodium||104 mg|
|Potassium||859 mg||Total Carbohydrate||33 g|
|Dietary Fiber||9 g||Sugars||8 g|