The following is part of a series of cooking posts testing the new America's Test Kitchen slow cooker cookbook, written in tandem with my friend Catherine Gelera (we are not allowed to reprint all the recipes so consider this a road test/adventure in cooking series.)
Well Catherine, I know you are too nice to do this on purpose but you sort of put me to shame with your last post. I've never even thought of grinding my own meat (although I do have a KitchenAid) and I know in my heart that I should be more discriminating about where I get my meat. I just live so close to the grocery store. Plus, your photos are beautiful in a way that my Droid can never stack up, so I am going to try to document this recipe more artfully.
This time I'm trying something different from my usual repertoire. I've made tomato sauce before and I've made beef stew before but I've definitely never made a tagine, but your choice for me was the Chickpea Tagine. I was down to try this though because it's vegetarian (I'm flexitarian but I'm on a mild health kick) and I am currently obsessed with yellow raisins. They're so good! So sweet. I know, I hope the lamestream media doesn't find this embarrassing detail about my personal life or the jig will be up.
For some reason I cannot abide food smells during my sleep-time (I like to keep my favorite hobbies separate) so I did my prepping the night before, which was easy-peasy. I worked my knife skills on two onions and the bell peppers. What's your garlic deal? I currently have this rubber tube that I roll the cloves in to get rid of the paper and then I use this Smitten-Kitchen-approved press.
After putting in the onions, spices, beans and broth into the slow-cooker (and experimenting with my new-old Nikon SLR) I went to work and came home to a wonderfully aromatic house. Since it was April in Chicago I was struggling with yet another gray, dreary day so the scent lifted my spirits and gave me something to look forward to as I huffed through my Bob Harper workout video.
However, when I stirred the pot, I noticed that the chickpeas seemed a little...firm. I double-checked the recipe and--surprise!! I was supposed to have pre-soaked them. Why, why do I always fail to read more closely? This recipe was going to be a disaster and I was too lazy to re-make it properly and I was going to have to admit my defeat or just lie. Fortunately I technically didn't have to do either, because the next stage of the recipe, where I incorporated the olives, artichokes, raisins and pepper, called for cooking the tagine on high, and I let that go on a little longer than the recipe called for and things worked out. No hard beans. I added some yogurt for creaminess, cilantro, honey lemon zest and salt and pepper we were ready to eat.
I have to confess that of all the beans, the chickpea is not my favorite. I don't dislike it as much as, say, the lima, but most times if a recipe calls for them I substitute white beans. However I ended up truly enjoying the recipe: the deepness of the spices, the sweet-and-salt had a great combo. The recipe was filling and nourishing but not stuffing. ATK recommended it with some couscous: I opted for some brown rice:
Why, yes, that is a microwave cup of rice next to a Wedgwood bowl. I am incredibly lazy, but I like to think we are just the type who can combine the everyday and the elegant. The recipe also called for a drizzle of olive oil but I forgot about this until now so I don't think it needed it necessarily, unless you want a bit more smoothness to it--I sorta like a chunky rugged stew.
I actually ended up eating leftovers two more times, without brown rice, and felt fine. I froze the leftovers too for some happy future night where I won't want to cook but will have something homemade to eat.
I'm halfway through the recipes you assigned to me! I want to know how it's been going for you.