Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Zucchini, Apricots and Olives

This is one of my favorite things to make and eat. I developed the recipe over time, tweaking things here and there, and you can adapt it to your own taste as well. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it's not complicated. You can play around with the spices and the amounts of them (I usually just eyeball it) as well as the different kind of veggies and fruits. Cherry tomatoes, sweet potato cubes, butternut squash chunks, chickpeas, a little ginger, dried plums (ok, prunes,) golden raisins and summer squash are all things that I've tried in this dish with great success. You can vary it to the season and your taste. This particular one is a little summery with the zucchini, mild olives and apricots. I decided to throw in a sweet potato I had lying around at the last minute. I use castelvetrano olives, which if you haven't tried, are amazing. I have seen die hard olive haters come around after trying them. They're mild, buttery and not overly briny. I serve it over a simple couscous with a sprinkling of parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Sometimes I add a little squeeze of harissa, a Tunisian spice blend. It's available in most markets and comes in a tube or jar but if you can't find it, it's totally optional so don't worry. It's a perfect meal either way.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Olives and Zucchini
serves 6 generously

10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbs cumin
1 Tbs coriander
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp of cayenne
1 tsp kosher salt
olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 c tomato paste
32 oz chicken broth (I like the organic, free range Imagine brand)
6 oz dried apricots (I used organic turkish apricots), roughly chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped in to 1/2" cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 c castel vetrano olives (pitted or unpitted - just be careful while eating)
juice of one lemon
a handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

harissa (Tunisian spice blend)
prepared couscous to serve over

Lay one of the chicken thighs flat on a cutting board and cut it in three pieces lengthwise and then 3 times crosswise so that you have 9 pieces of chicken. Do this with the rest of the thighs and place all the meat in a large mixing bowl. Add the next 6 ingredients and stir to coat evenly. Set aside.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven on the stove with a medium flame. Add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and garlic. Cook for about five minutes or until the onion starts to turn pale golden. You don't want to let it get too dark, or to burn. Next, add the seasoned chicken and tomato paste. You can turn the heat up a little. You want to stir it every couple minutes until all the pieces start to look like they're getting some color and are no longer pink. The time will depend on your pot, flame and how often you stir, but it should take about 10 minutes. Add the apricots and chicken broth, turn down the heat to a low simmer (you don't want it boiling) and cover. Let simmer for about one and a half to two hours. You can check on it and add some water (a cup or two) if the liquid level starts getting low. You want it to look like a liquidy stew. In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the sweet potato and in the last ten minutes of cooking, add the zucchini and olives.

Before serving, stir in the chopped parsley and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve over couscous in large bowls. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Berry Frangipane Tart

It's not officially summer but you wouldn't know it here with all the berries at the farmer's markets. This is a quick and easy summery dessert that can be made with any berry or berry combination. Instead of pastry cream, which I find kind of bland and blubby (?) I like to make a frangipane bed for the berries instead. Frangipane is an almond flavored cream made from ground almonds, butter and sugar and makes you sound sophisticated and fancy. Its also just fun to say: Fran-juh-pan. Usually you bake it with the fruit, and you could certainly do that here, but I left it simple and fresh with uncooked ripe berries. It's used in french pastries, tarts, danishes, etc. and is a great thing to have in your repertoire. The crust is a simple pate brisee that can be thrown together in a food processor. I doubled the recipe to make two tarts.

Berry and Frangipane Tart

One tart shell (recipe below)
Frangipane (recipe below)
Four little baskets (just over a pound) of mixed berries, washed, dried and tossed in a bowl with the juice of one orange and a tablespoon of turbinado or granulated sugar

Tart Crust (Pate Brisee)

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
1/2 c cold, unsalted butter, cut in to 1" chunks
2-4 tbs ice water

Put the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand (about 15 seconds.) Pour two tbs of water through the opening and mix until the mixture will hold together when pinched (you may need to add the remaining water.) Remove the dough and work it into a ball. Pat it down into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour. After an hour, unwrap the dough, let it soften a few minutes, and roll it out on a floured surface until it's 1/8" thick. The best way to transfer it to your tart pan (mine was a 10") is to roll the dough around your rolling pin and then unroll it over the tart pan. Use your fingers and push the corners in and neaten up the edges. Prick the bottom a dozen or so times with a fork and then chill the whole thing for 5 min in the freezer. Instead of using pie weights, I use a double layer of aluminum foil slightly larger than the tart pan and when the dough is chilled from the freezer, I cover the dough with the foil and push it in to the sides to keep them from sagging as the tart crust bakes. Bake it for ten minutes at 350 F and then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes or until pale gold in color. Spread the frangipane (recipe below) over the bottom of the tart in an even layer and bake again 10 minutes until slightly puffed. Remove from oven and while it's still warm, pile the berries on top. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


1/2 c almond four (found in the baking section at most markets)
1/4 c sugar
1 Tbs flour
3 Tbs room temperature unsalted butter
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

This recipe can be tried with all kinds of summer fruits. Peaches would be delicious. In the fall try pear or apple slices and bake the fruit with the frangipane. Let me know what you try....