Cooking with the Moroccan Tagine

Williams Sonoma TagineFor my birthday, my husband gave me a beautiful tagine from Williams Sonoma. Little did he know that I had been intrigued by the tagine for years and wanted to get one. He must have used his Jedi mind powers to read mine.

Tagines are made of ceramic or cast iron, and come in a variety of sizes, prices, colors and embellishments. They can be found at such stores as World Market or Williams Sonoma, and there are high-end cast iron varieties produced by Le Creuset. The Williams Sonoma tagine is in the medium price range, about $50, and serves as a quality pot for beginners, like the hubby and me.

A tagine (pronounced ta – jeene) is a North African earthenware pot traditionally formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving. Tagines can be used either on the stove or in the oven.

My particular tagine is of the ceramic variety, so forgive me this one post for not using cast iron (although I do use a cast iron item with the tagine – you’ll see below in the recipe). Both my husband and I have used our tagine about four times, all on the stove, and every dish has turned out beautifully. It is a slow cooker with dishes taking about 1 1/2 hours to cook. We have mainly made Moroccan dishes, inspired by sauces we purchased at Williams Sonoma, but I also cooked short ribs in a lovely pulled pork sauce that basically crumbled with a fork. Every dish is succulent, flavorful and pull-apart tender. I have not experienced such tender food with any other dish – crock pot or cast iron.

I am in love with the tagine so don’t be surprised if a I throw in an occasional post inspired by it.

Tagines, like cast iron cookware, require some special care and seasoning before use. Tips on caring for a tagine can be found here.

That said, following is a lovely recipe for Apricot Chicken Tagine with Peppers and Rice.

Apricot Chicken TagineIngredients
1 – 2 Tbsps. Oil (not pictured)
5 Chicken Thighs
1 Red Bell Pepper
Apricot Tagine Sauce (Williams Sonoma)
Rice
Slivered Almonds (not pictured)

When cooking with a tagine over a gas range, it is important to have place a cast iron heat diffuser on top of the burner to avoid direct heat to the ceramic pot. This will help your pot from cracking.

When cooking with a tagine over a gas range, it is important to place a cast iron heat diffuser on top of the burner to avoid direct heat to the ceramic pot.

Heat oil in the base of the tagine over medium heat.

Heat oil in the base of the tagine over medium heat.

Sear the chicken thighs, about 4 minutes on each side. Cook in batches so as to not overcrowd.

Sear the chicken thighs, about 4 minutes on each side. Cook in batches so as to not overcrowd.

Nicely seared chicken thighs.

Remove your batches to a plate. Nicely seared chicken thighs.

Once all of the chicken thighs are seared, return them to the tagine.

Once all of the chicken thighs are seared, return them to the tagine.

Pour the Apricot Tagine Sauce over the thighs.

Pour the Apricot Tagine Sauce over the thighs.

Next, add the chopped bell peppers.

Next, add the chopped bell peppers.

Place the tagine coned-lid on top of the base and simmer on low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Place the tagine’s coned lid on top of the base and simmer on low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

It is this small hole in the top of the coned lid that allows air to circulate and the pot to steam.

It is this small hole in the top of the coned lid that allows air to circulate and the pot to steam.

Once cooked, the Apricot Tagine Chicken will be colorful, infused with flavor and oh so tender.

Once cooked, the Apricot Tagine Chicken will be colorful, infused with flavor and oh so tender.

Serve over a bed of rice and top with slivered almonds. Enjoy!

Serve over a bed of rice and top with slivered almonds. Enjoy!

P.S. You can still make a tagine-inspired dish in your skillet, which I have done. Use the same ingredients, follow the same steps and you can still go to Morocco for dinner tonight! Check out the photo below:

Apricot Chicken Tagine

Apricot Chicken Tagine in cast iron skillet.

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A Flavorful Life – Tex Mex Chicken Panini

I spent St. Patrick’s Day weekend at a dog trial in northern California. The trial was a blast and I always enjoy spending time with agility dogs and the humans who love them. I found myself chatting with one of my agility buddies (the human kind), expounding about how busy my schedule was and how it would only get busier in the summer when I had to juggle Dutch oven events, dog trials, a full time job and quality time with my husband. I wasn’t complaining and I actually blurted out to my friend that “I have a full life.” Not “I have a full schedule.” “I have a full life.” It made me pause.

How often do we think about our lives in this way? I imagine we all have busy schedules juggling jobs, family obligations, hobbies, school, or other pursuits. We each are given one life to live and it is up to us to make it a flavorful one. The fun part is that we get to season it to our own tastes. The challenge is finding the right balance for all of those seasonings. Despite how hectic my schedule gets, I much prefer my crazy flavorful life to a bland one.

Funny how dog trials always give me too much time to think. Now that I got carried away waxing philosophical, following is a very flavorful recipe for a Tex Mex Chicken Panini that I hope adds a little spice to your life.

Tex Mex Chicken PaniniIngredients
2 cups cooked or rotisserie Chicken, shredded
1/2 of a 10-oz. can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Chiles
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 Tbsp. minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper
2 French Bread Sandwich Rolls
1 Red Bell Pepper, halved
1/2 White Onion, cut into slices
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

Roast the bell pepper and onion slices for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Roast the bell pepper and onion slices for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

The onions should be tender and the pepper skin should begin to blister.

The onions should be tender and the pepper skin should begin to blister. A little char adds more flavor.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, Rotel tomatoes, mayo, cilantro and garlic.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, Rotel tomatoes, mayo, cilantro and garlic.

Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Assemble the sandwich with a layer of the chicken mixture.

Assemble the sandwich with a layer of the chicken mixture.

Then some of the roasted onions.

Then some of the roasted onions.

And slices of the roasted bell pepper.

And slices of the roasted bell pepper.

Finally, top with the shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Finally, top with the shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Grill in a panini press or grill the sandwich on a cast iron griddle on medium-high heat. Place a bacon press on top.

Grill in a panini press or on a cast iron griddle on medium-high heat. Place a bacon press or small skillet on top.

Grill on each side for 2 minutes until golden grill marks appear and the cheese melts.

Grill on each side for 2 minutes until golden brown and the cheese melts.

Cut it in half and enjoy some slightly spicy goodness.

Cut it in half and savor the spicy goodness.

Good ‘Ol Fashioned Sloppy Joes

Growing up, sloppy joes usually came out of a can. Who can forget that “a sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.” I loved Manwich night at my house as my mom wasn’t the greatest cook. For example, her pork chops were of the consistency and flavor of cardboard. Stick a fork in it, if you can, because, yes, it is well beyond done. And that’s usually how we ate Mom’s pork chops…stuck on the end of a fork and us desperately gnawing at it since we couldn’t cut it. Thankfully, Mom couldn’t screw up a Manwich so sloppy joe night was often requested by us youngsters.

Today, I try to avoid “canned” meals as much as possible, having found that it is just as easy and a lot healthier to make my own from scratch. I have even found a number of sloppy joe variations that are truly delicious, such as Aarti Sequeira’s Bombay Sloppy Joes. A lovely Indian twist of an American classic made with ground turkey and seasoned with warm Indian spices like garam masala.

But today’s recipe is the traditional version, made with organic ground beef, bell peppers, ketchup and mustard. Quick to make, tasty to eat and so much better than a Canwich, I mean Manwich.

Sloppy JoesIngredients
1 lb. Ground Beef or Ground Turkey
1/4 cup chopped Onion
1/2 cup each chopped Green and Red Bell Peppers
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 1/2 tsps. Prepared Yellow Mustard
3/4 cup Ketchup
3 tsps. Brown Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a cast iron skillet, brown the ground beef, peppers and onion together.

In a cast iron skillet, brown the ground beef, peppers and onion together.

Nicely browned beef and veggies.

Nicely browned beef and veggies.

Remove the beef mixture and drain the fat from the skillet.

Remove the beef mixture and drain the fat from the skillet.

Return the beef mixture to the skillet. Add the garlic powder.

Return the beef mixture to the skillet. Add the garlic powder.

Then add the ketchup, mustard and brown sugar. If you want your mixture to be less sweet, don't add the brown sugar. Add more mustard and Worcestershire sauce for extra tanginess.

Then add the ketchup, mustard and brown sugar. If you want your mixture to be less sweet, don’t add the brown sugar. Add more mustard and Worcestershire sauce for extra tanginess.

Stir ingredients thoroughly and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir ingredients thoroughly, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Toast some buns and slop on the joe. Good stuff!

Toast some buns and slop on the joe. Good stuff!

Chipotle Lime Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn Relish

Here’s a fun twist on Taco Night – marinated steak tacos with a scrumptious roasted corn relish. The steak takes a few hours to marinate, but cooking and assembly time are pretty quick, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Good for any night of the week!

Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn RelishSteak Marinade Ingredients
Juice and zest from 3 Limes
2 Tbsps. of Honey
2 Tbsps. Oil, vegetable or canola
2 Tbsps. Adobo Sauce
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1/4 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
1.5 lbs. Skirt Steak or Round Sirloin Tip Boneless Thin Cut

In bowl, combine lime juice and zest, honey, oil, adobo sauce, cumin and pepper.

In bowl, combine lime juice and zest, honey, oil, adobo sauce, cumin and pepper.

Combine ingredients thoroughly.

Combine ingredients thoroughly.

Cut steak into thin strips.

Cut steak into thin strips.

Place steak and marinade in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate for 6 to 14 hours.

Place steak and marinade in a Ziploc bag. Refrigerate for 6 to 14 hours.

Steak Tacos with Roasted Corn RelishCorn Relish Ingredients
6 Green Onions
2 Ears of Corn, husked
1 – 2 Tbsps. Oil, divided
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh Cilantro
1 tsp. Lime Zest
1 Tbsp. Lime Juice
1/2 tsp. Chile Powder

To prepare the relish, brush the corn and onions with oil.

To prepare the relish, brush the corn and onions with oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill over medium-high heat until slightly charred, about 2 minutes for the onions and 7 minutes for the corn. Turn each frequently.

Grill over medium-high heat until slightly charred, about 2 minutes for the onions and 7 minutes for the corn. Turn each frequently.

Slightly charred corn.

Slightly charred corn.

Cut the corn off the cobs. Coarsely chop the onions and add them to the corn. Next add the cilantro, lime zest and juice, chile powder, 1 tbsp. of oil, and salt and pepper.

Cut the corn off the cobs. Coarsely chop the onions and add them to the corn. Next add the cilantro, lime zest and juice, chile powder, 1 tbsp. of oil, and salt and pepper.

Mix thoroughly.

Mix thoroughly.

When the steak is marinated, grill over medium-high heat on a cast iron griddle. Takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

When the steak is marinated, grill over medium-high heat on a cast iron griddle. Takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

Heat the corn tortillas over a burner or on the griddle. Fill with steak and corn relish. Que bueno!

Heat the corn tortillas over a burner or on the griddle. Fill with steak and corn relish and serve. Enjoy!