Stove-Top Tagine

This is old stuff, March of 2015 old, and it hasn't been edited, but this recipe is one of my favorites from my second mostly-failed attempt at blogging. 
Also, highly entertaining side-note, towards the bottom of this old post, there's a mention of a random friend who surprised me with a real conversation, and that random friend was in fact James, and was the very beginning of us getting to know each other.


A few weeks ago, I got to enjoy a really hyggligt* meal in snow-laden Boston with my good friend Lisa and three of her friends. Lisa and I had just finished with my first non-solo long run of 2015 marathon training and I was questioning the wisdom of running fifteen miles on an iffy hip flexor. We were tucked in a corner of this tiny low-lit place, decorated liberally with red-orange Moroccan textiles and artwork. The temperature swung from slightly chilly to drowsily warm based on whether or not the kitchen was cooking. It smelled like warm spices and there was an "open letter to Sarah Palin" (circa 2007) decoupaged to the door of the bathroom decrying her support of drilling in ANWAR. It was a far cry from what I pictured when Lisa said we were meeting people for Mediterranean (bright with cold summery food).

The food was delicious, but maybe the best thing was how easy and real the conversation was among five people who mostly didn't know each other. And I'm going to give credit for this to Lisa's friend Emily, a PHD candidate in soil science who was visiting with her computer-scientist boy to talk to research labs. Most people you don't know ask all the same "so what do you do" questions and nod politely and move on to some other banality, but Lisa has good taste in friends and Emily is not most people. It was surprising and refreshing to meet someone who 1) was unabashedly passionate about dirt, 2) had zero issues with asking hard questions, and 3) really listened to the answers. When I said I enjoyed the challenge of my job and was learning a lot but don't think baby gear is what I want to contribute to the world, I got a follow up of - so what do you want to contribute? I gave an incoherent answer about all the things I'm passionate about and all the interconnected issues I wanted to address together... somehow. (read: I have no idea) Lisa got a similar follow-up to a similar answer about her job, and then a follow-up to the follow-up. So often we stick with superficial conversations until we've built a foundation of shared experiences, because being honest about things that matter to us is scary. But being safe has the unfortunate side effect of leaving us isolated and un-known in so many interactions. There are even things that I'll admit to actively keeping silent on (politics, consumerism, environmentalism, being vegetarian) until I know I can speak without conflict. Emily's candor was a great reminder that once you get past social expectations, conversations about things that matter are a lot more fun than conversations about fluff. I obviously need more reminding, because just this afternoon, I had a friend initiate a real conversation about what it's like to be an early-twenties person and I was surprised. I would have continued on about the visible layer of life and skipped out on what it means to be caught up in the mess and chaos of life and how it feels to try and find a place and a purpose in it all. I hope people keep reminding me until I start to be the instigator, because these are the dialogues that connect us and help us find north.

So ask real questions, be open to vulnerability. Some argue that you can fall in love by asking the right questions, but it's pretty certain that you'll make yourself firm friends.

And remember, hot food, sweet spices and good company, are a sure remedy for late winter chills.

*I recognize that I am not remotely Danish, and don't ask me to read that sentence aloud, but I don't have an English word for the tone of this gathering, and I think New England deserves hygge as much as Scandinavia.

And without further ado... Here's my recreation of the vegetable tagine I had in Boston. With a little help from green kitchen stories and the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook I don't have an actual tagine or a clay pot, so I made this in my biggest skillet, and it was delicious. If you've got fancier kitchen gear, feel free to use it. A dutch oven would probably work really well, and make stirring a less hair-raising experience.

1 medium yellow onion, slivered
1 large can whole fire-roasted tomatoes
1 smallish kaboucha Squash, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked and rinsed chickpeas
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
2 medium zucchini, chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp coriander, cyanne, mustard seed, ginger, cloves
1/8 tsp cardamom
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Saute the onion in the coconut oil over low heat while you prep the rest of the vegetables.
When the onions are beginning to brown, make space in the middle of the pan, raise the heat to medium and toast the spices. (or just mix them in and wait a couple of minutes before adding other ingredients)
Add the garlic, stir and Saute for another minute. Then mix in the kaboucha and chickpeas, making sure they are coated with spicy coconut oil. Add the apricots and the tomatoes with their juice, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for about 25 minutes.
Stir in the zucchini and cilantro, cover and cook for another 20ish minutes.

Enjoy over couscous or quinoa with more cilantro if you like. (no finished photo because the sun went down)

Happy almost-spring!




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