Roasted Vegetable Tagine with Crispy Chickpeas

Roasted Vegetable Tagine with Crispy Chickpeas

Serves 6

Preserved Lemon

2 lemons, scrubbed

4 teaspoons kosher salt

Boiling water

Cut one of the lemons in half crosswise and juice it.  Put the juice in a small saucepan and cut the squeezed lemon halves into large pieces.  Add them to the pan along with the salt.  Cut the other lemon in half lengthwise.  Then put the cut side down on your board and cut the lemon crosswise into ¼-inch slices.  Add the slices to the pan and turn on the heat.  Add just enough boiling water to cover, and stir to dissolve the salt.  Cover the pan and turn the heat to very low.  Simmer until the half-moon lemon slices are completely tender, rind and all, about 40 minutes.  Set the pan aside to cool.  If you do this a day ahead, pour the pan contents into a small container and refrigerate.

Tagine Broth Mixture

1 28-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with their juice (I like Muir Glen)

3 cups vegetable broth or stock, preferably low-sodium

1 cup dry white wine

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1-1/4 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon crushed fennel seed

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 large red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ¾-inch cubes

2 cups peeled baby carrots

1 cup cracked green olives (or more to taste, remove the pits if you like)

Preserved lemon slices from recipe above, chopped into small pieces

½ cup golden raisins (soak them in hot water for a half hour if they’re dry, then drain them)

Combine the tomatoes, vegetable broth, and wine in a 3-quart saucepan.  Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the contents reduce to 4 cups.  Cover the pot and set it aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add the onion, with some salt, and pepper, and cook until the onion just starts to brown.  Add the garlic, cumin, fennel seed, and cinnamon, and cook for a couple of minutes to soften the garlic and bloom the spices.  Add the tomato/stock/wine mixture and simmer for 15 minutes.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Then add the potatoes, carrots, cracked olives, and half the preserved lemon pieces (put the rest of the pieces in a small bowl for serving at the table), bring to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes.  Add the raisins, cover, and cook for 15 more minutes.  The potatoes and carrots should be very soft.  Turn off the heat and set the pot aside.

Roasted Vegetables

2 red onions

2 fennel bulbs

3 zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into ½-inch slices

3 Japanese eggplants, ends trimmed and cut into ½-inch slices

Extra-virgin olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Ground cumin

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Put two racks in the oven, equally spaced, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Have two large rimmed baking sheets ready.

Cut the onions in half through the poles.  Then peel the papery skin off, cut off a small portion of the top, and cut a little of the root end off – just enough to get the rooty-looking things off, but leaving enough on to keep the onion halves together.  Then cut each half in half through the root, and then each quarter in half again.  You should have 16 pieces of onion.

Trim the fronds and shoots off the fennel bulb.  Cut it in half and then cut out a small amount of the core.  Slice off any really hard spots or brown spots on the outside of the bulb.  Cut each half into 4 pieces like you did with the onion, to make 16 pieces of fennel.

Toss the onion and fennel pieces with a little olive oil, about a half teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, and some salt and pepper on one of the baking sheets.  Sprinkle a little cumin over the vegetables.

On the other sheet, toss the zucchini and eggplant slices with olive oil, another half teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, and some salt and pepper.  Sprinkle a little cumin on top.

Roast both sheets for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables are browned.  Stir them up after 15 minutes, and again after a half hour to make sure they’re not burning.  Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl, cover with foil, and set aside.

Couscous

1 pound semolina or barley couscous, instant or regular, cooked according to package directions

Or 2 cups pearl barley, cooked in 3 quarts of boiling salted water for 45 minutes, then drained

Crispy Chickpeas

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried very well with paper towels

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon ground fennel seed

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, cumin, and fennel seeds.  Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet until it just starts to shimmer, then add the chickpeas to the bowl with the flour mixture.  Pour the contents of the bowl into a strainer with reasonably large holes (but holes that are still smaller than the chickpeas), shake to remove the excess flour.

Add the floured chickpeas to the hot oil and cook over medium-high heat for about five minutes, stirring often, until lightly brown and crispy.  Drain on a paper towel, and put in a small serving bowl.

Serving

Mound the couscous on a rimmed serving platter.  Pour the soup into a tureen or bring the Dutch oven to the table, along with the roasted vegetables, the crispy chickpeas, and the rest of the pieces of preserved lemon.  Each person can arrange a plate the way he or she likes.  The object isn’t to drown the couscous in liquid, there should be a layer of moist couscous on top with the vegetables and such, and dry couscous underneath – it all gets stirred together on the plate before eating.

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