Tunisian Fennel, Greens, Chickpea Stew

Adapted fron  the New York Times

1/2 pound (1 1/8 cups) chickpeas, soaked in 1 quart water for four to six hours or overnight (or 1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained)

1 bunch Swiss chard or Kale , stemmed, leaves washed and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 leek, white part only, cleaned and sliced

2 medium or 1 large fennel bulb, cored and chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

1 teaspoon caraway seeds, ground

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground

1 tablespoon harissa (more to taste; substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper if harissa is unavailable), plus additional for serving. Try using a flavorful mildly spice pepper, minced, like and ancho or even jalapeño here as well.

1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Salt to taste

1 1/3 cups couscous (optional)

1. Drain the chickpeas and transfer to a large pot. Add 1 1/2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer one hour while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. Tear the chard leaves off the stems. Wash the stems and dice. Wash the leaves thoroughly and chop coarsely. Set aside. Chop the fennel fronds, and set aside.

3. Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy casserole, Dutch oven or in any heavy pan with a lid. Add the onion, leek, fennel and a generous pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, five to eight minutes. Add the chard stems, and stir together for a couple of minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and ground spices, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the harissa or cayenne and the dissolved tomato paste, and stir together for another minute or two. Add the chickpeas with their cooking liquid, plus another cup of water if you think there should be more liquid in the pot. Stir together, and bring back to a simmer. Add salt, cover and simmer 30 minutes to an hour until the chickpeas are thoroughly tender and the broth fragrant. If using canned chickpeas simmer at the lowest heat just to bring the flavors together.

4. Stir in the chard greens and chopped fennel fronds. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the greens are very tender and fragrant. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt, garlic or harissa/pepper as desired.

5. Reconstitute and steam the couscous. Serve in wide bowls, top with the stew and serve.

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