Although we were the lucky recipients of a gorgeous red tagine as an engagement pressie from my parents friends a few years ago, we decided to forgo using it in the 95 degree heat New Yorkers were forced to endure last week. For those who may not know, a tagine (or tajine) is a clay vessel used for the North African dishes of Moroccan cuisine. It’s a two-parter type of deal – the bottom is like a heavy clay pot about five inches in depth and the top is a cone-like lid. There are no air holes in a tagine and this is specifically for keeping the steam inside. It almost creates a small clay oven on your stovetop or in the oven. What’s absolutely brilliant about this cooking vessel is that, due to its conical shape, it retains the moisture which is emanated from the ingredients inside and as it rises, it gathers on the conical top and falls right back into the food braising perfectly. This creates real depth of flavor as well as moist and delicious meats, especially those cuts that are tougher or cheaper. Tagines are really made for slow and low type of cooking and are used for a variety of different types of meals including meat or fish tagines and even soups. I highly recommend getting one of these babies for your kitchen and trying it out – but wait until it’s not 90 degrees outside.Which brings me to the actual recipe portion of this post – it’s friggin/freaking/fricking/fuggin/fucking (however the heck you express it) hot here in my neck of the woods. H-O-T. The last thing I felt like doing was turn on my oven. Luckily, on a shop-a-holic spring weekend in April we got summer-fever and spent about $300 we don’t really have at Lowes. At that time (and in my “holy s&it it’s the first 60 degree day” happiness fog), I thought it would be a great idea to purchase a $99 gas grill for our “backyard”. Somehow, miraculously, we shoved this very large gas grill in our small ‘backyard’ in Brooklyn (I use the word backyard lightly considering our plot of bricked-over land is about 7 feet by 3 feet – but I AM NOT COMPLAINING… honestly!). It’s the best financial investment I’ve made since buying my husbands greencard 5 years ago!
I’m rambling. Apologies. I’m writing this as I’m at the beach, pink with a light sunburn, and I’m 3/4 of the way down a very strong vodka tonic (twist of lime, thank you very much!). Anyways, it was freaking hot in New York, I was craving a tagine and I did not want to turn on my oven or stovetop. What’s a girl to do? Buy all the ingredients for a tagine and cook them on the grill separately. So, that’s what I did and let me tell you kind readers, it was freaking fabulous. We grilled every bit of what I would’ve put in a tagine and we served it with a nutty and fruity couscous. It’s been done time and time again, but, like I’ve mentioned before in another “deconstructed meal”, sometimes you just want to cut into things with a knife and fork. This meal was super easy and obviously much quicker to cook than a tagine. It’s perfect for the hot summer. Just rub your favorite Moroccan spice blend over your lamb (or use chicken if you’d prefer!) like a Ras el hanout, and grill along side fresh apricot and olives. Yes, we grilled olives. Although I don’t think it’s necessary to grill, the olives did take on a nice flavor by grilling them. Throw it all together with some cous cous and (as my British husband would say) you’re laughing.
TAGINE-STYLE MOROCCAN LAMB WITH GRILLED APRICOTS AND OLIVES – serves 2
- 2 lamb shoulder chops
- 1 large onion, cut into thick slices (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches)
- 10 large whole green olives
- 2 apricots (you can use dried apricots or other stone fruit like plums if it’s not the season)
- For Moroccan Spice Mix:
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chile powder or cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- For Cous Cous
- 1 cup of couscous (your favorite brand – if it’s packaged, no problem
- chicken stock to cook it in
- 1/2 onion, minced
- handful of fresh coriander, minced
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 teaspoon of the moroccan spice
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
What do to:
- Add all the spices together and mix with a fork or spoon to create your Moroccan Spice Mix.
- Rub spice mix generously on lamb and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes using a little olive oil to help it adhere.
- Make sure to reserve at least one teaspoon of the mix to flavor your couscous.
- Heat grill to medium-high and grill your chops for at least 4 minutes (perhaps as many as 6 minutes – use “poke” test to check) per side for a nice medium-rare pink.
- After a couple of minutes, oil the onions and begin grilling. These need around five minutes per side and be careful turning them as they tend to separate.
- After turning your chops over, add the olives, neatly threaded on some skewers. These don’t need that long, they just need to blister a little on all sides.
- Remove chops to a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest.
- Oil, salt and pepper the asparagus and begin grilling them.
- Add chicken stock to couscous, cover and let absorb.
- When stock is absorbed, add pistachios, spice mix,herbs and lemon zest and fluff together. Aromas will be wonderful!
- Remove onions, asparagus and olives from grill. Add all to plate and sprinkle generously with some more pistachios. Enjoy!
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