Getting into a stew — or tagine — could prove to a very tasty idea on Labor Day. But, if you are a little confused about what a tagine is, don’t feel alone — the word actually has two meanings.
First, “tagine” is the name given to those fabulously spicy aromatic stews coming from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. And, secondly, it’s also the word for describing the traditional knob-handled ceramic vessel the stew is cooked in.
I explored tagines and the intoxicating pleasures of North African cuisine late in life, but since discovering Ghillie Ba’an’s superlative “Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morroco,” in 2007, I like to think I’ve made up for lost time. So, apparently, have a lot of other folks, as I seem to come across recipes for tagines with a great deal of regularlity. Even Paul Hartley’s delightful “The Heinz Tomato Ketchup,” with it’s interesting Heinz ketchup history and 40 ketchup-inspired recipes, offers a recipe for Moroccan Fish Tagine, a tasty dish made with snapper, olives and preserved lemons.
In case you haven’t yet tried the provocative, piquant flavors of North African cuisine, making a tagine for upcoming Labor Day celebrations might be a good way to get started. Tagines are not hard to make, not overly expensive to prepare and will showcase, beautifully, the fruits of your Labor Day labors.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creamy Shellfish Tagine with Fennel and Harissa
Recipe courtesy “Tagine,” by Ghillie Ba’an, photography by Martin Brigdale/Ryland Peters & Small publishers, 2007, www.rylandpeters.com.
1 pound fresh mussels in their shells, scrubbed clean and rinsed
1 pound shrimp in their shells, thoroughly rinsed
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 shallots, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste (recipe follows)*
2/3 cup cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A generous bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
Put the mussels and shrimp in a wide saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Add the lemon juice, cover the pan, and bring the liquid to a boil. Shake the pan and cook the shellfish for about 3 minutes, until the shells of the mussels have opened.
Drain the shellfish, reserve the liquor and discard any mussels that have not opened. Refresh the mussels and shrimp under cold running water and shell most of them (you can, of course, leave them all in their shells if you prefer, as long as you are prepared for messy eating).*
Heat the olive oil in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish.* Stir in the shallots and fennel and sauté until soft. Stir in the harissa* and put in 1¼ cups of the reserved cooking liquor. Bring the liquid to a boil and continue to boil for 2 to 3 minutes, reduce the heat and stir in the cream. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes to let the flavors mingle, season to taste with salt and lots of black pepper and stir in the mussels and shrimp.
Toss in half of the cilantro, cover with a lid, and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cilantro over the top and serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
*Kitchen Ade Note: For the purposes of this recipe, I served the shrimp peeled and deveined. Also, be sure your casserole is designed for top of stove cooking. If not, use a Dutch oven designed for top of stove use. And, Harissa is very hot. Start with a minimal amount and go from there, according to taste.
8 dried red chilies (ancho or New Mexico), seeded
2 to 3 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup olive oil
Put the chilies in a bowl and pour over enough warm water to cover them. Let them soak for 1 hour. Drain and squeeze out any excess water.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound them to a paste with the garlic and salt (or whiz them in a food processor). Beat in the cumin and coriander and bind them with the olive oil.
Store the paste in a sealed jar in the refrigerator with a thin layer of olive oil floating on top. It will keep well for a month.
Makes about ¼ cup (a little Harissa goes a long way).
Moroccan Fish Tagine
Recipe courtesy “The Heinz Tomato Ketchup Cookbook,” by Paul Hartley; food photography by Peter Cassidy/Ten Speed Press publishers, 2008, www.tenspeed.com
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 medium onion, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons Heinz Tomato Ketchup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 cups fish broth (you could use chicken or vegetable)
4 red snapper fillets (about 6 ounces each), halved diagonally
(mullet or sea bass are equally good)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 black olives, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped*
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
Heat the 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan and fray the onion gently for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes. Stir in the ketchup, cumin, and paprika, and then gradually add the broth.
Turn the heat up to high for 2 minutes, then take the pan off the heat and keep warm.
Preheat the broiler, brush the fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil, skin side up for about 5 minutes.
While the fish is cooking, add the olives, tahini, preserved lemon and herbs (reserving just a little of the herbs for garnish) to the sauce in the pan, stir gently and reheat. Check the seasoning.
Put the fish into four warmed bowls, spoon over the sauce and scatter the remaining herbs over the fish. Makes 4 servings.
*Kitchen Ade Note: Making authentic preserved lemons is a lengthy process, requiring at least two weeks of brining. For a quick version, ready in about 30 minutes, try Shortcut Preserved Lemons (recipe follows).
Shortcut Preserved Lemons
1 cup water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 firm organic, unwaxed lemons, washed, dried and quartered
Cut lemons into quarters. Rub approximately 1 teaspoon of salt over each piece. Place lemons in a small saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced to ½ cup and lemon rind is tender. Remove from heat, then cool to room temperature before placing lemon and remaining liquid in a sterilized jar; refrigerate.
To use, remove what you need from the jar. Rinse, dry and pat dry, then chop before adding to desired dish. portion from the jar, rinse, pat dry, then chop before adding to desired dish. Will keep for up to 1 week.
Honey-Rose Water Creamy Tapioca
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 (13½-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup milk
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/3 cup honey, or ½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca (such as Kraft Minute Tapioca)*
1 teaspoon rose water,* or 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine egg, egg yolk, milks and honey, whisking to blend. Stir in tapioca, allowing tapioca to stand for 5 minutes. (Standing will soften and swell tapioca, giving it maximum thickening properties.)
Bring mixture to a boil, over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add rose water, then cool slightly. Pour mixture into clean jars (equipped with lids) for individual servings, or into a 1 quart jar (or similar container). Cover tops of pudding with a piece of plastic wrap, to prevent skin from forming, then chill.
Once mixture is cold, remove plastic wrap and cover with lids for storing. To serve, garnish pudding with roses (free of sprays or pesticides), berries or jams. May be made up to 2 days ahead. Makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings.
*Kitchen Ade Note: Before removing tapioca from the box, be sure to stir contents to thoroughly combine.