Cinnamon-Spiced Chickpea and Lentil Stew
The story of Purim, from the Biblical book named for the beautiful young Jewish woman Esther, tells of how she was taken to the house of King Ahasuerus in ancient Persia to be part of his harem. Not knowing her identity, he fell in love with her and made her queen. Legend has it that while part of his court, she ate only legumes, grains, nuts and fruit as a way to maintain a kosher diet. Since Persia was the site of Queen Esther’s triumph, it’s fitting to season this satisfying stew with traditional spices from this ancient cuisine.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
- 28-ounce or 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
- 3 cups cooked lentils (or 2 15-ounce cans, drained)
- 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin, to taste
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- Optional seasonings (see note)
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- ¼ cup dry red wine (optional but highly recommended)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Dried hot red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
- Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and optional seasonings. Turn up the heat; when the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat down. Add the zucchini and wine, if using. Cover and simmer gently with the cover ajar for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender, but not overdone. Season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes if you’d like a bit more heat. Stir in the parsley and serve in shallow bowls. You can also let the stew stand off the heat for 30 minutes or so to let the flavors deepen a bit more.
- Note: To enhance the traditional Persian seasonings in this dish, you can also add a pinch of any or all of the following: ground cloves, cardamom and coriander. You can also add some grated fresh ginger and/or a few threads of saffron.
- Photo credit: Evan Atlas