Olive Chicken Tajine with Dried Fruits Couscous

There was a week in February where one thing after another cracked, shattered, or broke. I would think experience taught me that little people like to touch everything and I should leave the pretty, delicate things behind at the store. I've gotten better over the years, choosing utilitarian, but some times I'll still fall for the impractical. It's irrational, buying something I know has a slim chance of survival. But irrational is a good thing sometimes. So it came to be that I bid farewell to a few glass pot lids, a mirrored tray, and my laptop charger. I blame the kids for some of the damage but not for the charger who decided to stop performing its intended function just when I needed it. Instead of pacing and wallowing in frustration, I gave the computer a hiatus until I got a replacement charger. All this to say that I obviously missed the boat on this post but it's here anyhow because pourquoi pas? I make this chicken and couscous almost every Tu Bishvat because it incorporates many of the symbolic fruit of the holiday. Tu Bishvat celebrates the renewal of the trees and their fruit-bearing cycle and I like to incorporate as many vibrant fruit as possible, especially those from the seven species. In my head, it also marks the unofficial welcome of spring since I've seen the blossoms bloom. I can already imagine summer fruits making way and I'm all sorts of giddy. But let's talk about this couscous and friends. 

Couscous is a serious endeavor in my family. My mother holds onto her traditional Trabelsiya (Libyan) version steadfastly, even stubbing her nose and looking down on Moroccan couscous. I won't tell you what she thinks of the instant kind. However I don't discriminate. I love both versions and appreciate the sweet toppings that adorn Moroccan couscous. Growing up, I looked forward to enjoying a bowl at a Henna or friend's house because I knew I wouldn't find it at home. My mother starts by steaming her couscous in a couscoussier, making it a tedious and long process. I believe that the instant kind, if well seasoned, makes for a good choice if for no better reason than its speed and convenience. I would love to spend an afternoon cooking from scratch, but that's not likely possible with my crew underfoot.  

Both of these recipes come together rather simply. The chicken is slow cooked until the meat slides right off the bone. The couscous absorbs all the flavorful juices from the sauce, and the dried fruits decorate and add a splash of color. I think I'll need to make this not just on TuBishvat. 


Olive Chicken Tajine

ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 lb chicken legs (thighs work well too)

2 medium onions, peeled and sliced

2 clozes garlic

1 10oz. can green pitted olives, rinsed well

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

5-6 preserved lemon slices

directions

Preheat a large, wide pan or a 5 quart dutch oven over medium heat. After 1-2 minutes, add the oil. Once heated through, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and sear the meat well on both sides until golden, stirring the onions around so they don't burn. If the onions are starting to burn, add a bit of water and deglaze the pan. Add the olives around the chicken and pour boiling water (stock works too) until the chicken is barely covered. Bring the mixture to a boil and season with onion powder, garlic powder, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Let boil 5-6 minutes before sprinkling the cilantro and adding the lemon slices. Cover the pan, reduce to a simmer and let cook for at least 60-90 minutes or until the sauce has reduced. Serve hot with couscous.

Dried Fruits Couscous

for the couscous:

350g (12oz.) fine couscous

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups boiling water

for the topping:

1.5 cups boiling water

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup prunes, chopped

1 cup apricots, chopped

1/3 cup raisins

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup roasted slivered almonds

pomegranate seeds, to serve

directions

Pour the couscous in a medium sized glass bowl. Add the ground coriander, onion powder, turmeric, dried parsley, salt, pepper, oil and stir well. Pour the boiling water, stir, and cover. Let the couscous sit for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with fork and set aside. If the couscous feels dry, you can more boiling water, 1/4 cup at a time.

To make the topping:

In a deep skillet, bring the water to a boil and dissolve the sugar. Add the prunes, apricots, and raisins and stir to coat in the syrup. Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir well. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the dried fruits soften and most of the liquid absorbed. Stir in the almonds and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly before topping the couscous with the mixture and some pomegranate seeds.