I had been craving a vegetarian Moroccan Tagine for weeks before I got it together enough to buy the ingredients I needed to make it. You see, it’s been lurking in the back of my mind since I made preserved lemons. One of the most common uses for preserved lemons is in Moroccan cuisine.
I had originally wanted to just follow a recipe I found on Epicurous, but I ended up changing most of the veggies and some of the spices so now it really doesn’t look like much like the recipe that inspired our dinner. Surprise, surprise, I couldn’t follow a recipe.
Some of the changes ended up being mandatory to fix the taste. The original was really not worth writing about or sharing. For me this was more a lesson in how to fix a mediocre recipe than finding that perfect veggie packed tagine recipe. Now fortunately for me and my guests, it turned out great in the end and we enjoyed it for days with all the yummy leftovers. If I could teach one thing it would be the skill of fixing mediocre recipes into fabulous creations. If this is something you’d be interested in learning, let me know.
We all get excited about a recipe we’d like to make, only to be disappointed with the results. It happens to all of us. Now there’s not much one can do about baking except make it over again with the appropriate changes, but stews and soups are a whole different story. Additions can be made at the end and often can take a meal to new heights. I am so glad I had used less preserved lemon than suggested and less brined olives. I don’t know if it would have been fixable otherwise. In this case, it was a matter of adding honey and cinnamon to balance out the briny-ness, and yogurt to balance out the salt.
And then the flavor heavens opened up. AAAHHHHH! and the angels sang.
It was a beautiful thing.
Vegetable Moroccan Tagine
3 cups of quartered tomatoes
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
1 teaspoon each coriander seeds and cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried red chilies
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil or oil of choice
2 medium onions chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste (homemade is a great option)
5 medium carrots cleaned and chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
4 cups water
1 eggplant, diced into 1 inch cubes
1 zucchini, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced brined olives
2 tablespoons honey
3 quarters of preserved lemon, pulp included
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup full fat yogurt (or coconut cream for a vegan option)
Set the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place quartered tomatoes on the baking tray. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until they start to shrivel and dry out. About 45 minutes.
In a small pan over medium low heat, toast the coriander and cumin seeds, about 2 minutes. Grind the spices using a spice grinder, mortar and pestal or a clean coffee grinder. Add the chilies, turmeric, and cinnamon to the ground seeds and set aside.
In a large heavy bottomed pot (you could also use a crock pot to make this) with a tight fitting lid, heat 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the cumin, coriander spice mixture and the tomato paste. Stir until well combined. Add the carrots and celery to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Add the water, oven roasted tomatoes, diced eggplant, zucchini, diced olives and honey to the pot. Brush off any excess salt from the rind and pulp. Finely chop the preserved lemon, including the pulp. Add the chopped lemon to the stew and bring the stew to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes or until carrots are tender.
Add the cilantro, mint, yogurt and chickpeas to the pot. Heat until chickpeas are warmed through.
Serve hot in bowls on a bed of couscous, quinoa or bulgur.
We chose to serve this with Curried Fig Butter Biscuit Rolls.