Some nights I’m dog-tired and dread setting to work in the kitchen. Other nights my energy level is through the roof, and I spend the day waiting for my chance to begin supper. Last night I was the latter. Why it was so is beyond me, but I ran with it. Literally, around the kitchen with pots and utensils waving in the air.

We both enjoy Ethiopian food. He was introduced in Washington, D.C. while stationed at Quantico, and I first had it in Minneapolis – home to the second largest population of Ethiopian and Somali peoples outside of Africa. I’m always looking for ways to get away from the ordinary in my cooking, so I found a recipe I knew would go over.

Doro Wot is a sweet and peppery chicken stew with a soupy sauce consisting of onions very slowly caramelized in Nit’r Qibe [Ethiopian spiced butter]. The deep-scarlet stew is seasoned with berberé a mix of spices that includes red chile and a slew of aromatics ground together – in my case, using a mortar and pestle. Traditional versions feature whole boiled eggs and are eaten with injera [a thin pancake made from teff flour] to mop up the sauce, both of which are tricks to minimizing the dish’s spiciness. And both of which I omitted here, but have included in the recipe below.

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Since I eliminated both the fire calmers, I needed to come up with a base for the Doro Wot, preferably something remotely related in style of cuisine. As the onions sweated and then the chicken thighs cooked, I wracked my brain, finally remembering that a North African staple is couscous. So in keeping with the theme, I threw together an Ethiopian pilaf of sorts.

Berbere-spiced Pilaf with Carrot, Scallion & Toasted Almonds [serves 2]

Printable recipe

1/4 c chicken or vegetable broth

2/3 c water

1/4 c Israeli couscous

1/4 c Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend [or any of the following: orzo, yellow lentils, red quinoa, or more Israeli couscous]

1/4 c almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into thin disks

1 scallion, green and white parts sliced thinly

1 T chopped parsley

1 t berberé spice [ours was leftover from the Doro Wot]

1 T extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt, to taste

2 eggs, hardboiled and peeled (optional)

injera bread, for serving (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth and water to a boil. Add the grains and carrots, and stir once; cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and grains are al dente.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the almonds, scallions, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Serve in warmed bowls as a side dish, a hearty entrée with hardboiled eggs and injera (if using), or as a bed for Ethiopian Doro Wot.

A squirrel bread original.

We served the stew and pilaf with a fruity and mellow Malbec Incredibly tasty.

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