Mr. Wat’s Spicy Moroccan Affair

Make love, not just lunch.

This transcontinental coupling of two different African lentil dishes, initially separated by thousands of miles, came about all because the grocery store was completely out of red lentils and I forgot to buy an extra tomato. I had had an Ethiopian Misir Wat in mind because I had a jar of homemade Berbere spice blend in the cupboard that I wanted to use up. I also had most of the other ingredients on hand, but only green lentils and a few grape tomatoes. I had a red bell pepper, however, that I’d impulse-bought on sale. So I wound up finding a Moroccan green lentil dish with red bell pepper and tentatively brought the two together, fire-roasting the pepper first to make a smoother introduction.

In brief, Mr. Wat was smitten. The dishy Moroccan added sweet pungency to his existence; he made her more than a little hot. I let them go at it in the pot for quite a while, after which time they were quite tender with one another. Let the two carry on in your mouth and judge for yourself how well they go together.

Makes 3-6 portions, depending on what else you’re serving. Feel free to double the recipe as lentils freeze well… you can keep the affair going for a while.

Ingredients

  • 1 T olive or avocado oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped semi-fine
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 T Berbere spice blend (to make your own, see below)
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup green lentils, rinsed clean

Roast the pepper on an open flame (gas or grill), turning with tongs, until fork-tender. This should only take a few minutes. Once it’s cool you can rinse off some of the blackened skin, but you don’t need to remove all of it. Alternatively you can halve, core, seed, and roast it on a lined or oiled baking sheet at 400 for 20 minutes. Whichever method you use, the pepper should be cored, seeded, and roughly chopped to go in a blender or food processor.

Add 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth, the vinegar and the syrup to the blender/processor and process until smooth. Set aside while you cook the aromatics. Heat the oil on medium in a large saucepan or dutch oven and saute the onion (adding a T or two of water if needed) until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute a minute or two more. Add the spices (and more water if needed to keep it from sticking) and continue to saute as they release their aroma. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the red pepper mixture. Turn up the heat to high and add the rest of the broth and the lentils. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to let the pot simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes, until the liquid is reduced and the lentils are tender.

Ethiopian lentils are usually served on spongy injera bread, the Moroccan dish can go solo or with rice, so here I served mine with some sauted and lightly seasoned red kale and a side of brown rice (garnishing the lentils with cilantro, of course). Feel free to get creative – Mr. Wat and his paramour won’t care what else is happening on the plate as long as they’re happily enmeshed.

Berbere Spice Blend (Del Sroufe’s recipe)

  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 tsp each of allspice, cayenne pepper, ground cardamom, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground coriander, ground fenugreek, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and turmeric

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