Tagine, Tajine

I am one who appreciates eclectic taste hence, identifying my love of collecting, antiquing and thrifting.  It takes a creative mind to repurpose an item, see past the junk to seek out the gems and have an appreciation for the ‘hunt’.  I enjoy antique shops, junk shops, estate sales, yard sales, thrift stores and great deals!  Really, who doesn’t!  With that I HAVE to share my latest great deal:

Estate sale
Le Creuset Tagine
Worth = $185
Paid = $12
Savings $173

My new Le Creuset Tagine

the kicker is that I have wanted a tagine but alas it didn’t fit the budget!

While I was walking around the estate sale with aching arms from the weight of cast iron, several people asked me just what it was, I was carrying.  I explained many times that it was a tagine receiving blank stares or replies of hmmmm.  I realized that not everyone loves cooking and perhaps not everyone enjoys global cooking or cooking methods, yet at that estate sale I think the tagine inspired some folks!

This is what that cone-shaped thing is and how it works:

The tagine is a cooking vessel and a name of the dish prepared in said cooking vessel.  Tagines are incredibly diverse in ingredients and spices and originated from all over North Africa.

The tagine is designed to trap and retain moisture within the conical shape allowing food to essentially be steamed, ensuring that it won’t dry out.  The shape of the tagine assists in creating very high cooking temperatures which help to caramelize and meld flavors together resulting in a rich stew.

Tagines incorporate vegetables, meats, nuts, fruit and spices to create a rich and seasoned stew.  There are meat and vegetarian tagines.  Meat tagines typically utilize tougher cuts of meats which become tender after hours of cooking and steaming.  Vegetarian tagines use chickpeas, root vegetables and legumes.

Tagines are typically served from the vessel and eaten with couscous, rice or bread.  Typical spices include cumin, saffron, paprika cinnamon, coriander and capsicum.  Regional tagines feature additions like various nuts, olives, preserved or salted lemons, prunes, dried apricots, golden raisins and pomegranate seeds.  These additions are typically added towards the end of cooking for an added texture or sweetness.

This recipe will be my first attempt at tagine cooking!

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Tagine by Katherine Martinelli

Author: Katherine Martinelli

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 35 mins

Total Time: 55 mins

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

This vegetable-packed tagine is hearty and aromatic. Dried apricots provide just a hint of sweetness and practically melt into the dish. The recipe makes plenty, and reheats beautifully.


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 small onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
  • cup chopped dried apricots
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 20-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 3 cups couscous
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1½ cups hot vegetable broth
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet with lid over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the cumin, coriander, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, garlic, and tomato paste; cook for a minute or two until fragrant.
  3. Add the squash, sweet potato, carrots, and dried apricots and toss well to coat. Pour 2½ cups of the stock and the lemon juice over the vegetables and bring to a gentle simmer.
  4. Cook partially covered over a low heat for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chickpeas, parsley, and cilantro and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a large baking dish and spread it into a thin, even layer. Pour over the boiling water and remaining 1½ cups broth and cover with a lid or tin foil. bring Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed into the couscous. Fluff gently with a fork.
  6. To serve, put the couscous on a large serving platter. Spoon the vegetable tagine on top. Garnish with additional chopped parsley and cilantro, plus pomegranate seeds if you like.

9/26/2012 Update:
This is how the tagine turned out (next time I may toss in some zucchini or spinach for color!)

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Tagine

Wear Your Wishes: Brazilian Wish Ribbons

If you ever venture to Salvador Brazil, which you should, because it’s filled with culture, history and celebration – go and visit the Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, The Church of Saint Bonfim. While you’re there be sure to grab yourself a caldo de cana (sugarcane juice) from an outdoor vendor and a fita (wish ribbon) as you decide upon tying your wish to the gate surrounding the Bonfim. This is a special place that has transformed from a church to a popular shrine because of its power to perform miraculous cures.
Continue reading “Wear Your Wishes: Brazilian Wish Ribbons”

Frutas, Frutas, Frutas!!!

Meandering the streets and open-air markets of Mexico you’ll find push-cart vendors selling varied items from chapulines (fried, spiced grasshoppers) to squash blossom tacos.  Street food is commonplace and abundant as a means to a living for some locals and a way to experience a culture and a country for some tourists (like myself.)  I basically ate my way through the Zòcalo of Oaxaca!

It was here, on the streets of Oaxaca where I came to love Oaxacan string cheese, churros, atoles, memelas, empanadas, micheladas and fresh fruit cups with a hint of limòn and chili. For one who loves food and enjoys trying new things, authentic things, the street foods of Oaxaca are as enticing as a neon-flashing, whirling carnival is to a young child.  Eyes alight with excitement, heart racing with content.


Walking away from the cobblestone streets of Mexico and taking flight to land back home on the paved streets of Grand Rapids (which has is pleasantries) however, a street food smorgasbord is not one.  I found myself out of luck when I had a hankering for a piping hot memela fresh off the griddle and decided that I’d have to recreate my street food loves on my own.

Lucky for me there are a few latin markets nearby and it just so happened that one day, as I turned the corner to enter the parking lot, my eyes lit up with excitement and recognition, right there on the street corner was a push-cart vendor selling fresh fruit cups with limòn and chili as well as elotes!!!

Push-Cart Vendor

As exciting as driving around and hunting down a push-cart vendor may be, I also discovered the ease in which making my own fresh fruit cups are.  They taste amazing, and are great for summer parties with their vibrant colors, utility and refreshing qualities.

Mexican Fruit Cups

Mexican Fresh Fruit Cups

Any combination of fresh fruits and vegetables:
Watermelon, Mango, Pineapple, Jicama, Cucumber, Muskmelon, Honeydew or whatever else floats your boat!
Fresh limes
Tajin or Chili Piquin (I prefer Tajin because of its sour and spicy taste)

Peel then slice or dice the fresh fruit and place into a serving cup.
Generously sprinkle with Tajin and then squeeze atop fresh lime juice.  EAT!