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!



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