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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Carrots & Almonds


I recall eating canned apricots as a child, though I can't recall if I actually liked them. I do remember there being some confusion, on my part, on how they differed from peaches. But in the middle of winter any yummy summer fruit will do, I suppose. Especially since I was a one trick pony when it came to eating vegetables as a child: green beans, or bust!

Question: has anyone out there eaten a fresh apricot? I don't think I have. I feel slightly scandalous saying such a thing ... a self-professed foodie having never eaten a fresh apricot, can you imagine! #foodiefail

Putting aside my burning questions about apricots (canned, fresh or otherwise), I just have to say this dish is wonderfully aromatic (owed to, in part, the dried apricots) - making promises of spice markets and breathtakingly wonderful adventures. Somewhere between listening to my Great Aunt Helen's stories of traveling to North Africa (and everywhere else ... oh, the life that woman lived), and watching Indiana Jones way too many times I added "traveling to Morocco" on the list of things I'd like to accomplish in life.


I've always been intrigued by the lovely conical shape of the tagine (the vessel this traditional North African dish is cooked in, and whence it gets its name) and have often thought it would be lovely to have one - can you say statement piece; it's like having a giant cocktail ring for your dinner table! But then my inner voice of reason would kick in and ask the one most singularly infuriating question for a person with a small kitchen: where would you store it? Yup. That question. Damn my small kitchen. And damn my inner voice of reason.

So if you, like me, are lacking in the tagine ownership department - don't fret. The kind folks at Cooking Illustrated proved, through a series of tests, that you really don't need a tagine to make, well, a tagine. Just grab your trusty Dutch oven, or that heavy cast-aluminum skillet that once belonged to your great-grandfather (just me?) with a well fitting lid and go to town.

*Note: the simplest way I've found to cook couscous is to heat the broth (or water) in the microwave and then pour it over the couscous in the serving bowl you plan on using and then cover it with cling wrap or a plate and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Presto, you've got couscous.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Carrots, & Almonds

Ingredients:

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trim excess fat)
1/2 - 1 yellow onion, finely diced
250 grams dried apricots, cut into half-moons
6 -8 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 chicken broth
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 TBSP tomato paste
2 TBSP unsalted butter
EVOO
toasted sliced almonds
cooked couscous*

Directions:

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the EVOO and one TBSP butter in a tagine (or dutch oven or skillet) over medium-high heat. Cook half the chicken for 3-4 minutes each side or until golden. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Melt remaining butter and stir in the diced onion for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add carrots and apricots. Stir in cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, ginger and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Stir in the tomato paste. Add broth and chicken. Bring to the boil. Cover. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and turn the chicken. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until tender (the mixture will cook down into a nice thick mixture).

After plating the couscous and chicken, sprinkle a few toasted sliced almonds over the top for a nice added crunch.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lady Grey Latte + Chocolate Biscuits


There comes a certain point in the day, after the sun has slipped behind a cloud or below the horizon, when all one wants is a nice cuppa and a biscuit or two. I first discovered the "tea latte" (aka London Fog or Vancouver Fog) one yucky, rainy evening when I bopped into a Starbucks and was looking for something different that would warm my mind, body and soul ... because everything is slightly more dramatic when you are a MFA candidate and your life revolves around studying (and creating) works of fiction.#truth

A good cup of tea has wonderful restorative properties; add a biscuit or two and all of your troubles can be forgotten, at least for the length of time it takes to finish a cup. But turn that cuppa into a latte (keep the biscuits, because little in the world is better than a Chocolate Hobnob) and you've got yourself a whole other journey.

The Lady Grey latte is a lovely, lovely thing; warm, sweet with a hint of citrus. The perfect drink to curl up on the couch a read the latest bestseller, or to settle down in front of the computer and work on writing the next bestseller.

Lady Grey Latte

Ingredients:

1 Lady Grey tea bag
8 ounces of just-off boiling water
4 ounces of steamed skim milk
1 tsp sugar-free vanilla coffee syrup (or to taste)

Directions:

Measure out the vanilla coffee syrup into the bottom of a coffee mug. Add tea bag and pour 8 ounces of hot water over tea bag.

Steep tea few minutes while you are steaming the milk (I steam my milk in the microwave (one and a half minutes on high), but if you've got a milk steamer/frother go ahead and use it, you lucky duck).

Pour steamed milk over steeped tea.

Enjoy!