Kale Chard and Chickpea Stew with Lamb

kalelambFor most normal cooks, inspiration can come from just about anywhere…a restaurant, a cookbook, even a book club. But one of the consequences of being a journalist who cooks is that, occasionally, I end up “cooking the news.”

And, in 2011, as the pro-democracy movement that became known as the Arab Spring swept through North Africa and the Middle East, I ended up in the kitchen (along with Wolf Blitzer) skinny-fying a traditional dish of the region that’s now a family favorite:  Kale, Chard and Chickpea Stew with Lamb over Clever Couscous.

It’s a dish that not only celebrates the rich tastes of Tunisia, it’s also rich with disease fighting and energy boosting nutrition. Already known to be a great weight loss food, chickpeas are loaded with protein, fiber and iron and–like the other fresh ingredients in this dish like sweet potatoes, zucchini, onions, chili peppers, the amazing kale, chard and the super-powered cooked tomatoes – they provide unique antioxidants that are proven to help fight heart disease and cancer.

And grass fed lamb, compared to factory farmed beef, is considered by many to be a much healthier choice when choosing a red meat…With recent studies showing it to have fewer trans fats and more omega 3′s than other meat sources.

And even the spices in this stew are good for you!

spicesA natural digestive aid, cumin seeds also have a bit of iron and, according to recent studies, may provide some cancer protection. And research of coriander shows this flavorful seed of cilantro can help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. Even caraway seeds contain nutrients, minerals and antioxidants.

And rather than serving this stew over traditional couscous (which is not a whole grain but a semolina pasta of limited nutritional value), we’re using whole wheat couscous which, when mixed 50/50 with cooked cauliflower rice, is very clever indeed…with half the calories of couscous alone and loaded with even more antioxidants and tummy filling fiber!

But even though this hearty stew is heavy in nutrition and flavor, because it abides by The Skinny Truth of “Eat More Things That Grow and Fewer Things That Walk,”–with the proportion of veg to meat turned upside down–it’s still light, with just 75 calories a cup!

Which means you can now enjoy 2 cups of stew over a 100 calorie cup of clever couscous for only 250 calories!

So this spring, let this skinny dish help you lose weight and celebrate your own freedom…from diets! Forever!

I think Wolf Blitzer would be proud.


This recipe makes a large pot of stew–about 12 two-cup servings–so you can feed your family one week and freeze the rest to feed them another meal later in the month. (If you’re a single, feel free to cut it in half.)  To make this stew vegetarian, simply omit the lamb and use vegetable broth rather than beef broth…it will still be hearty and delicious!

1 extra large onion, diced

1 large fennel bulb, cored and diced

2 cups lamb meat cut from 2 bone in lamb sirloins or chops (Reserve bones to cook with the stew for added flavor.)

2 Serrano chili peppers, minced (If you want less heat, use just one.)

2-3 tablespoons garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon caraway seeds, crushed (If you don’t have a trusty mortar and pestle, put all the seeds in a baggie and bash them with a meat mallet to crack them a bit.)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (you can add more later if broth and tomatoes aren’t salty enough)

1 cinnamon stick

1 medium red skinned sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with juice

12 cups vegetable or beef broth or a mixture of the two (I always prefer Better Than Bouillon paste so I can control concentration of flavor.)

4 cups zucchini (about 2 medium) chopped

4 cups sliced frozen okra (a one pound bag)

1 small bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped (about 4 cups)

1 small bunch chard, stems removed, leaves chopped (about 4 cups)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

1 handful fresh mint, chopped fine

Non-fat yogurt (optional)

Toasted pepitas (squash seeds), sunflower seeds, or pine nuts (optional)

Chop all of your vegetables before you begin and dice the lamb as well, saving any bones to add flavor to the broth.

Heat a large non stick soup pot (I prefer an enameled type) sprayed with cooking oil  and saute the chopped onion, fennel and lamb (as well as the lamb bones) until meat is just browned on the outside.

Toss in the garlic, Serrano chili peppers, cumin, coriander and caraway seeds, salt cinnamon stick, sweet potato and bell pepper and saute for a few minutes more so that the garlic and spices can warm up and begin to release their aromas and flavors and all of vegetables are nicely coated with the seasonings and the wee bit of fat from the lamb meat.

Pour in the juice from the canned tomatoes to deglaze the pan…using a wooden spoon to scrape any tasty bits from the bottom of the pot.

Add the tomatoes, the chickpeas (and the liquid they’re packed in), and the zucchini and stir…then pour in the broth and cook over medium low for 30 minutes.

Add in all of the frozen okra and half of the kale and chard and cook 10 minutes more. (Adding the greens in two batches will allow some greens to completely collapse and become silky, while those added later will retain more body and color.)

Add in the rest of the kale and chard, along with the green onions and the cilantro and cook another 5 minutes.

Taste for seasonings, adding in more salt if necessary.


After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa McRee was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! Visit The Skinny to see how she did it.