March 01, 2007

Balancing

One of the most useful things I've learned in culinary school is the importance of proper seasoning, or balance. Almost everything one makes should be tasted throughout the cooking process and constantly checked for salt, pepper, etc. Most food can also be punched up with a good hit of acid (no, not that kind), like different vinegars, citrus juices, whatever happens to look interesting in your cupboard...

I've been having some trouble recently, trying to re-balance my life. A few weeks ago, my neighbor told me that her friend was looking for some help for her meal-delivery service. I jumped at the chance and for the last three weeks have been gainfully employed. Being employed is great, if you like what you do. This is the first real job I've had that I genuinely enjoy. Currently, I'm working about 20 hours a week, and going to school full time and trying to be a supportive partner/friend/family member. It is taking me a long time to re-adjust.

I'm slipping on a lot of things. School isn't very interesting right now and my quality of work is pretty sporadic. Yesterday, I got back two quizzes from particularly boring class: perfect score on one and 60% on the other. What a perfect example of how I'm feeling right now, off-kilter. I have this work-thing under control, but everything else feels like it's just out of reach. This corner of the web has been low on content lately too. I'm trying to remedy that. I know that things will get better and that eventually, I will get a good grasp on my straws, it's just taking more time than I had anticipated.

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

Food from Morocco is all about balancing flavors: spicy, tart, salty, sweet, savory, earthy. All of the quantities in this recipe are variable. Without the couscous, this is gluten-free. Quinoa would make a good substitute.

Olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 lbs trimmed, cubed vegetables, I like a combination of sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, cauliflower, butternut squash, parsnips, rutabaga
1 16 oz can of tomatoes, diced (Muir Glen Fire-Roasted are great!)
1 1/2 TB tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock, or water
Cumin, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
Ground ginger, to taste
Ground coriander. to taste
Aleppo pepper, or cayenne to taste
Peel of 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped, or zest of one lemon and juice
1 1/2 TB pomegranate molasses, optional
1/2 cup raisins or apricots
1/4-1/2 cup good quality olives, pitted and chopped
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
toasted almond slivers
chopped cilantro
cooked couscous, or quinoa

Heat enough oil to coat bottom of large skillet with lid. When hot, add onion. Cook until translucent. Add vegetables, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, veg stock and spices. If you have the preserved lemon peel and molasses, add those as well. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat and cover. Cook about 20 minutes, or until vegetables can be easily pierced with knife. Taste for salt and spices, adjust. Add lemon zest, juice, raisins, olives and garbanzo beans. Mix well. Continue to cook until beans are heated through. Serve over cooked grain and garnish with cilantro and almonds.

Serves 4-6

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3 Comments:

Blogger La Gaucha Guapa said...

M, Great post. The recipe looks yummy. Don't worry, you'll get everything in balance after a while. For what ever it is worth...enjoy the "busy-ness" of it all!

March 01, 2007 1:21 PM  
Anonymous anamariainsb said...

Definately will try the tagine... I have only had meat tagines in the past..

March 11, 2007 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Serg said...

Thanks. It useful.

March 12, 2007 9:45 PM  

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