Today, I am dedicating this post and recipe to Bri, a fellow food blogger from Figs with Bri, and a woman fighting the long and difficult battle against breast cancer. This month’s CLICK event , hosted by Jugalbandi has a theme of Yellow, based on the Livestrong model. This month we, who are participating in this event, are dedicating our YELLOW posts to Bri, a strong woman with the heart and spirit of an Amazon! There is also a fundraiser going on for Bri – a way to help her seek the best medical care, in all areas, including holistic and experimental treatments some of which are not covered by her medical insurance. So please go here to check out the information and learn more about Bri’s cause – a little goes a very long way. The Foodblogger Blogosphere is a global village. we may not personally know everyone we interact with on a regular basis, but their stories and lives do touch us. I feel it is so important to support our fellow bloggers in good times and when they need us the most, during their trials.
Everyone here knows about my love for Moroccan foods. One of my favorite restaurants when I lived in the DC area was Marrakesh. This is how their website describes an evening there “course after course of Moroccan cuisine featuring succulent meats, vegetables, and salads served against the backdrop of Middle Eastern music and decor will both excite and lull you into one of the most special evenings of your life”. No truer words have ever been spoken.
Then at the other end of the spectrum, there was another great Moroccan restaurant where I used to live in Northampton, MA called Amanouz Cafe an unassuming place, yet serving up fresh and delicious food at very affordable prices. Both of the restaurants rate highly on my list of favorite restaurants of all time because of the education they afforded me for Moroccan food.
For one, the first time I went to Marrakesh, when I was a pre-teen, for my mom’s birthday, was the first time I had ever tasted Moroccan food – the spices, the hints of cinnamon, the smokiness of cumin, the meat falling off the bone, mint tea poured artistically into small decorated glasses. That coupled with the backdrop and splendor of the restaurant itself was a truly magical experience I have never forgotten. Then Amanouz, which is run by two brothers, whom I got to know while I lived in Northampton, taught me even more about Morocco and its food, making Morocco one of the premier vacation destinations of my soul.
However, even though I haven’t gotten there yet, some of my closest friends have, my dear friends Tony and Jonathan who gifted Roberto and I with a beautiful handmade Tagine (name for the cooking vessel and a meal), bought in a Moroccan market and hand carried back to Massachusetts and then down to Florida for our wedding. I cannot tell you how much this gift meant to me. Not only is it beautiful, but it was thoughtful and deliberate. So thank you Tony and Jonathan – I love you both and you are welcome to come to our house for Tagine anytime!
For me, the combination of chicken rubbed with aforementioned spices and slow cooked with tart green olives, lemon and raisins is quintessential of Moroccan cuisine – the sweet and the tangy in perfect harmony. So of course the first thing I wanted to make with my new Tagine was Chicken and Olive Tagine with Preserved Lemons (minus the preserved lemons).
Um, yeah, I am not a big fan of preserved lemons, however the nice olive lady at our farmers market solved this problem for me, by selling me beautiful green olives stuffed with lemon peels. This gave me the taste I was after without having to deal with preserved lemons.
Then to the issue of the Tagine. Handmade Moroccan Tagines from a Moroccan market do not come with directions – they come as they are. So research online taught me that hand painted, glazed (tagines are clay) Tagines are not to be used for cooking. They are for serving only. This actually suited me just fine, because even though I was dying to cook with a tagine, I was not dying to break this beautiful and sentimental gift from my friends and I know how tricky cooking with clay can be and I was leery to experiment with this piece. So out came my cast iron skillet – the only pan I use anymore, and it worked just as well! Served up in the beautiful Tagine, along with couscous, salad and pita and it was like being at the Marrakesh…well…almost.
Chicken and Lemon Peel Olive Tagine
coarse sea salt
one small chicken cut into 8 pieces
(or if you are the leftover queen like me, 8 large chicken tenders that are in your freezer)
1 TBS white vinegar (I used apple cider as this is what I had)
2 cups water
5 TBS olive oil
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro finely minced
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp real saffron
salt to taste
1/2 lb chopped onions
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
2 TBS olive oil
a good amount of green olives stuffed with lemon peels
a good amount of raisins
Rub coarse sea salt on the chicken pieces and wash chicken in a bowl with vinegar and 2 cups of water.
Leave the chicken in the bowl for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the spice rub. In a large shallow bowl mix olive oil, cilantro, cinnamon, saffron, salt, half of the onions, garlic, cumin, ginger, paprika and turmeric. Mix together and add a little water if necessary to make a paste.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Then rinse and dry chicken and place in bowl with the spices. Roll chicken in spices making sure to cover them really well. Leave to marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat cast iron skillet, or tagine or dutch oven on the stove top and add 2 TBS olive oil. Place the chicken in the pan, and then pour the rest of the marinade over top. Add the rest of the onions, olives and raisins and cook in the oven, covered, for about 45-50 minutes. Serve with couscous, salad and pita bread.