Seven Vegetable Tagine on Couscous
Tagines are quite simply flavorful North African stews. Mostly identified in Moroccan cuisine but also widely found in Tunisia and Algeria. The word tagine is also the name of the earthware pot with conical lid in which the stews are simmered. These stews are based on lamb, poultry, fish or vegetables and enhanced with vegetables, dates, dried apricots, raisins, prunes, olives, tomatoes, honey, lime, preserved lemons, sesame seeds, and cilantro. Spices like saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, aniseed, paprika, and fenugreek are frequently used. Braising is the basic method but unlike European braising which is started on the stove and finished in an oven, a tagine is braised totally on top of a stove. The conical lid allows any flavorful vapors to collect and fall back into the stew, much as what happens to braises in ovens. Couscous which is a semolina grain is generally served under or alongside of a tagine.
In the Casablanca and Fez style, this dish is based on seven vegetables as the number seven is considered fortunate or lucky. This version is loaded with vegetables and flavored with spices, cooked olives, raisins, preserved lemons, and cilantro. Seek out whole wheat couscous to round out the wholesomeness of this recipe. This is truly a plant-based exotic experience to be savored!
Seven Vegetable Tagine
4 entrée servings
1 cup green olives with pits like Picholine or Lucques
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled, cut into one-inch chunks (about 3 cups)
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon saffron, ground
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 (14.5 ounces) can diced tomatoes and juice
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 quart vegetable broth
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into one-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
1 large turnip, peeled, cut into one-inch chunks (about 1 ½ cups)
1 ½ cups pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, cut into one-inch chunks
1 large zucchini, cut into one-inch chunks (about 2 ½ cups)
2 tablespoons raisins
1 (14 ounces) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 cup whole wheat couscous
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon preserved lemon rind, minced (optional but highly recommended)
1. Drain and wash the olives. Cover with water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer. Simmer for ten minutes. Drain and cool. With the flat side of a chef’s knife, gently flatten each olive to loosen and discard the pit. Reserve the olive flesh.
2. In a heavy-bottomed non-reactive saucepot heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté over low heat until soft.
3. Stir in the turmeric, saffron, cinnamon stick, and black pepper. Cook for one minute. Add the tomatoes, salt, and vegetable broth. Raise the heat to medium-high.
4. Add the carrot, turnip, and pumpkin. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes.
5. Add the zucchini, raisins, chickpeas, and reserved olive flesh. Continue cooking for twenty minutes.
6. In the meantime cook the couscous according to package directions. Reserve warm.
7. Taste, Think, Transform with salt if desired.
8. Place in on a bed of couscous. Top with cilantro and preserved lemon.