Saffron and Cinnamon

 

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After Kerry told me about her trusted chickpea tagine, I realized I was in a dinner rut. I needed to change up my repertoire, and bring some warmth and spice to my palate.  So, I had Kerry come over, with a tote full of exotic spices, and do a cooking demo.  She says that while it can, of course, be cooked in a traditional tagine, she doesn’t actually own one, and so uses a dutch oven. Here is her delicious recipe:

5 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced (or 1 tsp grounded)
2-3 cinnamon sticks (or use 2 tsp ground)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp saffron threads
salt
2-3 tsp harissa paste (or dried harissa)
2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
1 lemon, juice and zest
a handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 small white or red potatoes, cut into wedges
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces (I used orange and purple)
1 zucchini, cut into 2-inch pieces
10 dried apricots, cut into halves
1 can drained chickpeas/garbanzo beans
a handful of roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss the cut up carrots, potatoes, sweet potato, and zucchini in 2 tbsp of the olive oil and place on large baking sheet.  Roast for about 35-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a heavy stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or clay pot, and add the onion.  Sauté a few minutes.  While the onion softens, soak the saffron threads in a small bowl of warm water (about a tablespoon or so of water will do).  You can also toast the cumin seeds at this time.  I use a 5″ cast iron skillet over a medium-high flame, and move around the seeds frequently to prevent scorching, toasting about 6-8 minutes or until they become very fragrant.  Give the seeds a grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, then add to the onion.  Stir for a few seconds, then add in garlic, ginger, the cinnamon sticks, and other spices.
Stir then add harissa, lemon juice, tomatoes, and cilantro.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, with lid on, for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking.  Add the roasted vegetables, apricots, and almonds; stir.
Serve with Magical Rice (or couscous) and top with a bit of snipped cilantro.

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