Over the weekend we hosted our first dinner party. Well, not exactly a party in the traditional 1950s sense, but a dinner with friends. Since I love to eat and I love to cook it was an opportunity to try out something new. I decided to focus the meal around Turkish food, one of my favorite cuisines. What’s not to love? Garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, olives, feta cheese . . . seriously, this is great food.
I stuck to some old standbys that I knew would come out well. I started with baba ghanoush and artichoke hummus as starters with pita bread. For the soup course I made a red lentil and bulgar soup. For the main course I served zucchini squares and vegetable tagine.
Tagine is not Turkish food. It’s from north Africa, typically from Morocco. Close enough, right? When I was looking to replenish my supply of Aleppo pepper for my Turkish cooking I found another spice that looked interesting. It’s called Ras El Hanout and The Spice House website provided some recipes for this spice. Thus was born the vegetable tagine.
I’ll walk you through it below. It seems like a lot of work, and to a certain extent it is. Despite the many things you have to chop, it’s based on a simple concept with a delicious base of tomatoes and spices.
Mince the onions and garlic, and grate the ginger.
I added a half a jalapeño after I tasted a tiny piece and nearly burnt my lip off. Once I started cooking and tasted the tagine, I chopped up and added the other half. I probably could have put a second pepper in it.
At the same time, I cut up carrots, celery, and pepper (I used yellow). Salute in a pan with some olive oil.
Here’s the tagine cooking. I added about a cup of diced tomatoes (canned), half a small can of tomato paste, some green lentils, and the spice mix.
Then you add vegetable broth and chopped fresh parsley.
Vegetable tagine is great for veggie lovers. It is also really healthy, containing vegetables of different colors, and two kinds of legumes. The sauce has a tomato base and it is flavorful but not spicy. Raisins or another dried fruit is added for some sweetness, and I put in some garbanzos I set aside from the hummus. Cubed butternut squash went in too.
The other thing I liked about this dish was that is is relatively flexible. You have to have tomatoes and a few other veggies, but beyond that you can add what you have on hand. Cook the couscous at the very end and you’re done.