Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My Global Kitchen

I have never been overseas. The very first place I will visit when I leave the country is Morocco. I have been fascinated by it for years. Greece is next, but that's another post.

Back to Morocco. I am by no means saying that my idea of Moroccan is authentic, but I do my best. It's unbelievably cold in Chicago and I wanted comfort food for both lunch and dinner this week. (You know I only cook on the weekends) This meal consisted of a chicken tagine, lentils and couscous. A tagine is both the stew and the vessel in which you cook it. (You could make this in a Dutch oven, but where's the fun and shopping in that?)

I make the tagine and lentils together. This may be heresy, but that's what happens when you don't travel. The most important ingredient in both the tagine and couscous is the spice. Moroccan cooking uses cinnamon, saffron, paprika, ginger and cumin. I cheat. Williams-Sonoma sells a great tagine spice blend. I add extra saffron.

The tagine and lentils take the longest to prepare, so I'll start there. This consists of onion, garlic, preserved lemon, oil-cured olives (Trader Joe's) and of course lentils. I used green lentils today.
The orange zest and pine nuts are for the couscous.

Brine, season and brown the chicken. Transfer the chicken to a plate. I used two boneless, skinless thighs and two boneless, skinless breasts.

Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened. Season with the spice blend, salt and pepper. Once the onion gets a head start, add the garlic.

Add the sliced preserved lemon (make sure you rinse the lemon before slicing) and olives.

Add the lentils, chicken broth and a couple of bay leaves. Cover and simmer.

Halfway through the cooking time, add the chicken and any of its juice to the tagine. Cover and simmer. When it's done, the liquid will be thick and dark and the chicken will be falling apart.

Now doesn't that look good??! Here is where you should add fresh parsley and cilantro. I didn't have either, so I added the dried versions with the bay leaves.

Let's focus on the couscous. I used whole wheat (Trader Joe's). Couscous is probably the easiest thing you can make that doesn't involve a microwave. The ratio is 1:1 water and pasta. I like to experiment with different flavors when I make mine.

Start with onion and garlic. Season with the spice blend, salt and pepper. I added oil-cured olives and orange zest.

Now add chicken stock. I goofed and added the pasta before the liquid, so I ended up dumping the contents of the pot onto a plate. Anyway, bring the liquid to a boil. Add the pasta, stir, turn off the heat and put the lid on the pot.

Five minutes later, fluff with a fork and you're ready to eat. I tossed in toasted pine nuts. Add fresh cilantro and parsley. If you don't have fresh, add dried to the hot liquid right before you add the couscous.

If you decide to make these dishes, go easy on the salt. The preserved lemon and olives bring a lot of salt to the party. After I seasoned the onions in each dish, I did not have to add any more salt.

Given my camera limitations, this is the best I could do with the plated dish. All I need is some mint tea!

Tools of the trade:

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