There had been plenty of non-official cooking prior, back when we were friends and I would host a group for pulled brisket tacos or bring a bowl of succotash to the BBQ he was throwing for the 4th of July. For this first official meal though, I have virtually no recollection of what I made. And I mean virtually, as I usually hold this blog accountable for logging for the vast majority of things that come out of my kitchen and the significant moments they commemorate. But alas, for this significant moment, I’ve got nothing.
What I do remember is going to three different markets in preparation. First, to Murray’s to pick up Charlie’s favorite cheeses, then to Chelsea Market to get the finest cured meats in all the land, and finally to Lobster Place for oysters.
Since this was a mere three weeks into dating, I of course waited until he arrived to shuck the oysters so I could impress him with my masculine energy in the kitchen by popping each shell open with the ease of a beer bottle. This worked for about 5 minutes, until I severed one of my thumbs and had to reassure him that I was “toooootally FINE!” as blood poured down to my elbow. I taught him how to shuck the rest of the oysters while wrestling with my Bounty tourniquet, and he did so well, the job became permanently his.
Aside from all the subsequent oyster appetizers, one of the first meals Charlie officially cooked for me was chili. One night a month or so after the great birthday mollusk massacre of 2013, he surprised me with a homemade meal of one of the recipes from the blog, chili con carne. I talked about the significance of this moment here, and the immediate anxiety that I felt since the chili was an older recipe. Therefore there was a significant chance that the meal would be terrible and the blood for the second time in our at-home dining would be on my hands.
The meal was delicious of course, and even more so because he made it for me. But I’ve been on a mission ever since to create superior chili recipes, and ones with Slow Cooker instructions, should he happen to surprise me again with a comforting Crock Pot meal.
It being a year later, and his birthday once again (this time the big 3-0), I thought there was no better time to share this healthy lamb chili with Moroccan spices. The flavors of my favorite traditional lamb tagine lend themselves well to the chili, since the base spice is cumin, which is similar to a lot of Tex-Mex dishes. I amped up the heat with plenty of harissa, added some sweet potatoes for sweetness, and loaded it with kale for healthiness, even though it melts away and you can hardly tell there are vegetables in there.
If you have any significant moments of your own that need celebrating this fall, I highly recommend this comforting Moroccan chili with ground lamb. There’s far less risk of blood shed involved than dishes that involve a shucking knife, and if you’re lucky, you can find a man with a slow cooker to take the sweat and tears off your plate too.
Moroccan Lamb Chili with Sweet Potatoes, Chickpeas and Kale
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1-2 tablespoon harissa (Moroccan chile paste)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- One 28-ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
- One 15-ounce cans chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 cups beef stock or water
- 1 cup frozen or fresh chopped kale
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Greek yogurt for serving
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Push the onions to the sides of the pan and add the lamb. Cook the meat, breaking apart with your spatula, until nicely brown and cooked through, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, harissa (add more if you like spicy chili), cumin, and salt. Cook for 1 minute, or until the spices are fragrant. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and simmer, scrapping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced, 15 minutes.
Stir in the chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and kale. Cover with the stock. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and taste for seasoning.
Serve the chili with Greek yogurt and garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.
To make this in a slow cooker or crock pot, simply continue through step 2, omitting the sweet potatoes and kale. Cook on low for 8 hours. When ready to eat, stir in the sweet potatoes and kale and cook on high until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Check out the other great dishes from this week’s Food Network #FallFest below
The Lemon Bowl: Slow Cooker Chicken and Vegetables with Cinnamon and Garlic
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Slow Cooker Chicken Vegetable Stew with Rosemary, Thyme and Sage
Big Girls, Small Kitchen: Slow Cooker Cassoulet
Devour: Slow-Cooked Meals from Breakfast through Dessert
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Slow-Cooker New Mexican Vegetable Chowder
Red or Green: Slow Cooker Red Beans, Vegetables & Rice
The Cultural Dish: Slow-Cooker Beef Stew
Domesticate Me: Slow Cooker Apple Pie Oatmeal (Vegan and Gluten-Free)
Taste with the Eyes: Elegant Braised Leeks
FN Dish: 6 Desserts to Cook Low and Slow