Tagines are a special kind of cookware, but they also refer to a class of food slow-cooked in a tagine. I chose to go with a Moroccan styled dish: a medley of vegetables cooked in a tagine style (a proper tagine would be cooked in, well, a tagine, but seeing how I don’t actually have one, a Dutch oven will have to do. Doh!).
This dish is easy to make, the only real killer being prepping the vegetables. I had seen a version of this dish which looked awfully appealing, so I figured I’d try my hand at it with a few twists. I chose to use this as a healthy side dish to get my veggies (main course coming up next!), but you could also tailor it to be more of a main course for vegetarians by serving a larger portion of it over a bed of rice or cous cous, maybe with a nice flat bread on the side.
Flavor-wise, this dish was simply delicious–even the most resolute veggie hater has to enjoy the flavor of this (although the still, very visible vegetables might pose another hurdle…). The base of the flavor was tomatoey, but not overwhelmingly so. That provided the foundation for every other flavor to stand on: sweet, savory, earthy, rich, citric, crunchy and crisp, tender and soft, and just all around hearty. There are two other major players to this dish (as far as veggies are concerned): cauliflower, and, my reason for including this in my Legume Love Affair, chickpeas. This dish wasn’t the sexiest thing to look at, but one bite makes up for that pretty quickly. Very hearty and tasty enough that you’ll forget its good for you.
- olive oil
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 parsnip
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1.5 cups canned tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup mushroom broth (I just happened to have this handy–substituting vegetable broth is fine!)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- 1 preserved lemon
- 1 cup green olives (I used sicilian)
- 2 cups cooked/canned chickpeas
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 8 dates
- Optional: pinch of saffron
Begin by peeling and prepping all of the fresh ingredients as there isn’t a lot of time between steps during cook time, so you’ll find it a lot easier to manage if everything is mise en place.
So peel and dice the ginger, shallot, and garlic finely. Peel and coarsely chop the carrot and parsnip. Coarsely chop the cauliflower and dates. Pit the olives if you need to and chop them in halves or quarters. Also, finely dice the preserved lemon, taking care to remove the seeds. Seeing how I only just started preserving my lemons and they’re not ready yet, I used a fresh Meyer lemon instead and I separated the flesh and peel, doing my best to remove the bitter pith and seeds (Next time, I’ll be ready!). I also threw in a little salt to make up for it. You know, to make amends to the preserved lemon gods (you can’t be too careful).
If you’re doing canned chickpeas, opening a can is pretty easy, but if not, cook those according to package instructions. Finally, pour the broth in a bowl and crumble the saffron into the broth so it has a chance to start flavoring the dish before you get to work. The saffron won’t add a lot of color (seeing how the tomatoes already turn everything red), but it will just add to the sweet aromatics in that sexy way only saffron can.
So with everything ready to go, heat up some olive oil in the tajine/dutch oven. Once its hot, begin sautéing the shallot, and in about 2 minutes, add in the garlic and then the ginger. After another minute has passed, add the carrots and parsnips. After about 5 minutes, things should all have softened up nicely and be smelling nice.
In a separate pan, briefly toast the cinnamon stick until it lets off a perfume. Then add this back into the veggie pan.
Now, add in the tomato and saffron-infused broth mixture, stirring and simmering. Let this go for about 10 minutes or so to soften everybody up a bit more. The base flavor is there and the foundation is ready.
Finally, add in all of the remaining ingredients, stirring gently so as to avoid mashing up the cauliflower or chickpeas. The dates will honey up the liquid and the raisins will soften and reconstitute somewhat, adding a brighter sweetness. The lemon will liven things up with a wonderful citrus flavor and the olives really enrich the dish. And last, but definitely not least, add in the cauliflower and chickpeas. They come last simply to avoid overcooking as you’d like these guys to still be somewhat firm and clearly identifiable in the final product.
Let this simmer for another 15 minutes or so and then it should be good to go. If you choose to include rice/cous cous, you won’t mind the extra liquid, but if you’re having this dish alone (like I did), you might consider pouring off some of the excess liquid (maybe reserve it for use in some other dish–its quite a tasty broth!). I topped with some feta crumbles without really having given it a second thought, but in retrospect, I really can’t explain it–it certainly didn’t add to appearances. Whatever the case, it worked well flavor-wise!