Beef and Butternut Squash Tagine

Serves 6.

Note: This North African stew will fill your house with the fragrance of warm spices. Wonderful when served over couscous. To toast the almonds, roast them in a 400-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. From Meredith Deeds.

• 18 prunes

• 2 lb. beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 2-in. cubes

• 1 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 2 tbsp. olive oil

• 2 medium onions, diced

• 3 garlic cloves, minced

• 1 1/2 tsp. ginger

• 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/2 tsp. ground coriander

• 1/2 tsp. turmeric

• Pinch of saffron

• 2 c. water

• 1 small (2 lb.) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-in. chunks (about 6 c.)

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

• 1/4 c. toasted almonds (see Note)

Directions

Soak the prunes in warm water for at least 30 minutes, or the entire time the tagine cooks.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté half the meat, uncovered, stirring only occasionally, until well browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Lower the heat to medium and add onions to the Dutch oven. Sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric and saffron, and sauté for another minute or until fragrant.

Add the reserved beef to the pan, along with 2 cups water, butternut squash and cilantro. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens and the meat and vegetables are tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, adding a little more water if the stew appears too dry. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.

Drain the prunes.

Transfer stew to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the prunes and the almonds.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 330 Fat 17 g Sodium 540 mg

Carbohydrates 27 g Saturated fat 5 g Total sugars 12 g

Protein 20 g Cholesterol 50 mg Dietary fiber 6 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ fruit, 1 ½ starch, 2 ½ medium-fat protein, ½ fat.