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Heritage Recipe

Tagine (pronounced Tah-jeen)

Ingredients
Meat: your choice (or mix) of chicken, lamb, or beef, cut into chunks
Medium onion, chopped
Medium onion, quartered
Olive oil
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
Raisins
Green olives (pitted)
Green peppers, cut into wedges
Variety of cut vegetables that take a long time to cook (e.g. carrots, potatoes, beans, and/or turnips)
Zucchini (optional)

Properly done, a tagine requires its specialized pot, a deep clay dish with a cone-like chimney. I have managed it in a large covered earthenware pot, but it requires letting the vapors escape a little - the stewing is not as intense as typical American crockpot stews.

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in the pot or dish. Brown the meat and chopped onion. Add a cup of water, salt and pepper to taste, and vegetables. Cook on very low heat 20 to 25 minutes. Add raisins, olives, peppers, onion quarters, and zucchini and cook until vegetables are tender.

NOTE: Spring-summer of 1975 found me in a town called Beni Mellal on the flank of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, about equidistant from Fez and Marakech. I lived in a large but bare apartment on the second floor above a bordello, on a street known locally as La Rue d'Amour (the Street of Love) because so many bordellos were doing business on that block. Occasionally the police would raid, but not for sex. Located in a strict Muslim section of Morocco, they were on the prowl for alcoholic beverages.

The Madam, my landlady, was always tipped in advance that a raid was scheduled that night. As a foreigner, I was exempt from the Muslim rule, so she would carry her supply of beer and other alcoholic beverages up to my apartment and I would stash them in my closet for her until the raid had come and gone. In exchange, she would bring me huge platters of food. Among them was Tagine, a delicious stew.

I asked her how it was made, and she showed me. I have had tagines since at friends' homes in Morocco and in American restaurants, but never like the tagines she made me. Perhaps it was the sweet taste of having outwitted the morality police. Here is how I remember it.

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