Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Turn Your Tagine into a Working Member of the Kitchen ... A Beef Stew Creation

Has your tagine taken up a permanent, cozy residence on a dining room shelf like ours has?  Every night, our tagine looked languidly on as we noshed on dinner.  If it could talk or think, it probably thought it had the easy life without having to lend a hand.

Not a whimsical purchase on our part, we had every intention of cooking with it as we were inspired by the gift we had given to our friends last year.  We even cooked in the tagine the weekend we purchased it and were quite delighted with the outcome.  Yet, it retired itself to the shelf of collectibles for the next few months.

Giving the seemingly lazy tagine a break, its usefulness is most appreciated on a leisurely weekend afternoon.  Finding the leisurely afternoon problem is on us, not the tagine.  Finally a free Sunday afternoon presented itself and we asked the tagine to take the stage...front and center.  The entertainment of choice (i.e. the recipe) was a variation of Jamie Oliver's Beef Tagine.  If you're interested in Jamie's recipe click **here**.

Our adaptation of ingredients and a summary of the recipe we created are outlined below.  If you do not have a tagine, it can be prepared in a dutch oven as well.  We've done it both ways with great success.

Massage the spice rub over the meat, refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours before cooking
Prep your tagine with a generous coating of olive oil and warm over medium heat.  Managing expectations here, browning the meat in an earthen tagine will take much longer than you are used to in today's conventional pots and pans.  The beauty of a tagine is the shape of the lid which traps the condensation, returning it back into the cooking liquid. The meat retains a glorious dry/moist flavor that no other type of cooking can provide.


This recipe calls for using the whole cilantro stem (a nose to tail approach creating no waste).  Check out our mise en place prep.


After the meat has seared, add the onion and cilantro stems.  Reserve the leaves for garnish at the end.


Cook for an additional 5 minutes before adding the rinsed/drained chickpeas and chopped tomatoes.


Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.  We used our homemade chicken stock but store bought is fine too.  If you need a homemade recipe for stock check out John's take on stock making.


Bring to a boil, reduce and cover simmering for 1.5 hours.  


This would be a good time to play a game of chess!


After attempting to beat John (an hour and half later), added the prunes and the cauliflower.  If it looks dry, add a bit more stock or water.  No, I didn't win the game.




Gently stir what was just added and put the lid back on for another 1.5 hour simmer.  In the meantime, I found this terrific recipe for homemade pita bread and now would be the perfect time to make it.  If you want to make your own, I can highly recommend fellow food blogger, Half Baked Harvest's recipe.  Click *here* to make it yourself.  So soft and chewy you will NEVER go back to store bought.


After the final simmer, your beef stew is ready.  Garnish with a heavy load of cilantro leaves and sliced almonds.  So perfect for a winter afternoon.






Beef Tagine (adapted from Jamie Oliver)

Ingredients: 

  • 1.5 lbs of stewing beef 
  • Spice rub:
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 Tbsp Ras El Hanout (Moroccan spice)
  • Olive oil
  • One onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • A small bunch of cilantro
  • (1) 14 oz can of chickpeas
  • (1) 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes or 1 large freshly chopped tomato
  • 3.5 cups of chicken broth
  • (1) small cauliflower head .. florets only
  • 3.5 oz of dried prunes roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp of sliced almonds


To prepare:
1. Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl.  Place the beef in a larger bowl and massage the spice rub into the meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or preferably overnight. This will allow the spices to really penetrate the meat for flavor.
2. When it's time to start cooking, warm the tagine with medium heat and coat the tagine with a very generous portion of good quality olive oil.  Sear the meat over medium heat till it just starts to take on a brown color.            
3. Add the onions and cilantro stems and continue to cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Fold in the chickpeas and tomatoes.  Add the broth and bring everything to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer and place the tagine lid on and cook for an hour and a half.
6. At the hour and half mark, add the cauliflower and prunes.  Give it a gentle stir. 
7. Cook for another hour and a half.  Check in on it occasionally to make sure it hasn't gotten too dry.  If it has, add more broth or water.
8. It's ready to eat when the meat is tender and falling apart.  Garnish with cilantro to add brightness and almonds for a bit of crunch.

Serving size is approximately 4
Time to prepare and cook 3.5-4 hours depending on how leisurely you want to approach this


          

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Big Sur, Big Thoughts

Contemplating life and all the mysteries it entails is a treat John and I enjoyed on a recent birthday trip to Big Sur's Nepenthe.  Of course, Big Sur is a breathtakingly beautiful destination for rejuvenating one's soul.  I probably would be happy at any establishment if it is in Big Sur...rain or shine.

Bottom of a Beer Glass, Circa 2014-Big Sur, CA
One of our great joys in life is an afternoon break with a nice beverage in hand taking in the surroundings.   Sometimes the break is about enticing conversation, or investigating the latest place with a fun vibe.  But on this birthday afternoon it was about being quiet and letting the mind wander.  Nepenthe delivered.

Our establishment choices are not always about the food. The choice may be determined because of the ambiance.  With Nepenthe it is about the destination where the food and drink are just an excuse to linger in comfort with a stunning view.


Big Sur's Highway 1 has many pullouts for taking in the scenery; but with each turn out it is just a spot for cars to park on a cliff.  Unless you take picnic and hike, there's only a few restaurants with view of the ocean where you can nourish your tummy and your soul.


What were my grand thoughts on this warm January day?  In case you haven't been following, California is in the middle of the driest period since 1849 since they started keeping track of such things.  On the surface, the sultry air, the sea mist ever looming and the crystal clear views made this day particularly alluring.  But the feeling is so deceiving; a trick of the mind if you will.  We need rain!  Less than a month earlier, Big Sur had a terrible fire because of the dry conditions.  Yesterday, our governor declared a drought emergency.  Helpless in feeling, there is not much I can do about it except to conserve the water we have.  These kinds of environmental changes are happening all over the globe; California is not alone.

Is this part of our evolutionary process?  Is there anything we can do about it?   Timely questions to consider when one takes stock on their birthday.  What do you think?



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