Inspired by our December catalog, this vegetarian tagine will bring comfort on even the coldest of days.
This post comes from our FP Contributor, Lexie Smith!
As a premier example of comfort food, please, when embarking upon the sultry journey that is this tagine, heed this advice: calm down. Recipes with more than eight or so ingredients have a tendency to send a home cook’s heart aflutter, but I implore you to approach this process with a leisurely drawl and embrace the flexibility inherent in a large pot full of stuff, simmering together for an extended period of time. The “stuff” and the “period of time” are both based mostly on instinct and taste, which ought to encourage rather than intimidate the cook. You’re in control here. The real key to mastering this dish is in maintaining that leisure. Hell, even the name has a flexible spelling (j or g — your choice). Seriously, be as laissez-faire as you can muster — don’t go peeking under the lid or stirring incessantly. Go live a life as colorful as your ingredients while all those goodies turn themselves into dinner.
I wanted this particular flavor combination to remain bright and buoyant despite its hearty, heavy setting. As we buckle down for winter this kind of balance is increasingly important, as are a good dose of vitamins. The addition of tangerines keeps this dish rejuvenating in both taste and nutrients. The name also sounds pretty good with tagine, which refers to the actual vessel in which you’re cooking — a traditional clay pot with a tall, narrow sloping lid. The goal is for the steam to be trapped in the top and drip back down into the stew, while the chunks cook and soften but generally maintain their structure. This way, you end up with a pot full of flavor rather than a pot full of mush. Despite its namesake, you can use any large pot with a lid and achieve excellent results, as I have here.
Traditionally this is served with a grain of some sort: couscous, rice, millet, quinoa, etc. I enjoy this on its own with some thick yogurt and find that it’s plenty filling, but certainly accompany the tagine with your grain of choice for an extra cozy cold weather meal.
Tomato Tangerine Tagine
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1” of ginger, minced
3 cups kabocha squash, cubed (about ½ a medium/small pumpkin)
1 sweet potato, cubed (I used yams, which have a creamy white flesh)
4 cups eggplant, cubed (1 medium)
1 parsnip, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ½ cups canned tomatoes, chopped or crushed
1 tangerine, juiced
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 handful mint, chopped
8 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
8 dried apricots, chopped
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baharat*
3 tbsp mild harissa**
almonds, Greek yogurt and fresh mint to top
Prep and chop all of your vegetables, dried fruit, herbs and spices and set aside in a large bowl. Keep the onion, ginger and garlic separate.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for five minutes and add the chopped ginger, garlic and salt. Cook for two more minutes.
If using a pot: reduce the heat to low and add in the rest of your ingredients. Stir to coat and then cover, leaving as is for an hour. During that time you can stir once or twice so that the bottom does not burn or stick, but do not overdo it! You don’t want to let out too much steam or break down the chunks.
If using a tagine: Cook the onion, ginger and garlic as above, then transfer to your tagine with the rest of your ingredients. Place in a 250F oven for at least an hour.
After an hour, your vegetables should be cooked through and the tomato base will be thick and flavorful. Sometimes I add in ½ – 1 cup of vegetable stock or canned tomatoes at this point for something a bit soupier, and let it cook for a few more minutes.
Top with toasted almonds, more fresh herbs, and some good Greek yogurt (if you fancy dairy), and a grain of your choice for a very hearty meal. This tastes great all week.
*Baharat is a favorite Middle Eastern spice blend — it is warm, sultry and savory. Find some at a specialty store, online, or replace with ½ tsp each of cinnamon, cumin and paprika.
** I use a brand called Mina Harissa, which is saucy and pretty mild. Use less if your harissa is particularly spicy or in paste form.