Lucky Comestible II (4): Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

April 10, 2008


If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site. Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thank you for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new home of Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we?  Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans on this blog than you do.”

It’s a truism when discussing the era of flower children and Woodstock to say, “If you remember the ’60s, you probably weren’t there.”  When it comes to the 1980s, however, those of us who lived through it are more likely to lament, “I remember it all–if only I could forget!” Still, the Era of All Things Excessive (also known as the “Me” Decade) did have its touchstones.   

Let’s see: if you (a) know what a “social X-Ray” refers to; (b) can name the performers who sang “Ebony and Ivory“; (c) own one of the original Cabbage Patch Dolls; (d) know where Expo ’86 took place; and (e) have seen the only movie in which Julia Roberts was actually any good, then you, like I, were most likely cognizant of the 1980s–like it or not. 

And yet, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for those times.  I mean, how can anyone forget the heady 80s, with their typical Yuppie motto of “More is More”?  As a PhD student on her own in the Big City of Toronto, it was in the 80s that I finally became comfortable perceiving myself as an “adult.”  Working as both a don in residence and a teaching assistant at university, I supported myself while studying and carrying on an active social life, as only someone in the early throes of adulthood can do. With a built-in social network (three of my close friends from childhood had already moved here years before) and PhD seminars filled with interesting new classmates (as well as the occasional crush), I was happy to spend my time memorizing Beowulf by day, then taking on the town by night. 

80s urban professionals were regularly amused by showy sportscars, massive parties, both private and public (raves made their appearance in the 80s), big hair (remember Boy George?), big fashion (ah, yes, Amazonian shoulder pads) and even bigger earrings.  I recall encountering a colleague in the hallway at work one day, feeling pretty snappy, bedecked as I was with a pair of my favorite gold-wire earrings. He took one glance my way and sniped, “Wow, how’d you get those hamster wheels to stay attached to your earlobes?”. 

Ah, yes, pretty much everything from the 1980s was excessive and self-indulgent.  And the food?  Oh, my, the food. . . .

The 1980s were epitomized by everything rich, from Gordon Gekko to Double-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Caramel-Cream Cheesecake.  Foods were elaborate and multi-layered, and nobody ever worried about saturated fat, cream, too much red meat, organic, or whether the tiramisu was made with whole-grain ladyfingers. No one had ever heard of Omega 3s, let alone ingested them, and restaurants were just getting their fingers wet with the new food architecture that mandated aesthetics over taste.  In those days, I’d spend hours cooking and baking for dinner parties, multiple courses and desserts that could, on their own, drain the stock of an entire dairy farm for a day.  

One of the best-selling cookbooks of the time was The Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  Two regular New York gals who’d made a name for themselves by operating one of the most successful little gourmet shops in the city’s history, these women finally collaborated on a cookbook and were instantly rewarded with an overwhelming, almost cult-like following. 

Like most of my friends, I possess a well-worn copy of the maroon and white-covered tome, its edges fraying a little and pages splotched with grease stains.  From the side, my book appears to have donned a jagged, fringed winter scarf, as little strips of sticky-notes, marking recipes I wished to try, peek out from almost every page.   One in particular, Chicken Marbella, was cooked so many times that I had to replace the sticky note on more than one occasion.

Well, for some reason, while I lay supine in bed for ten days, my mind kept wandering back to that darned Chicken Marbella.  Maybe I was a little delirious; maybe the muscle relaxants brought with them delusions of poultry; or maybe I was just ravenous since I couldn’t get up to feed myself, subsisting on the meager, dried-out muffin the HH left on the bed each morning before he trotted off to work.  Whatever the catalyst, I craved that dish.  So, as soon as I was up and about, I pulled out my trusty copy of The Silver Palate, and set about adapting.

The original recipe turned out to be slightly different from what I remembered (in my idealized version, it was aromatic with a variety of Moroccan spices, rather than the lone oregano it does contain), but it was still alluring.  Certain that quinoa would partner perfectly with the other ingredients, and after a little tinkering, I came up with this recipe.

I must tell you, this was astonishingly good.  Next time, I’ll begin with a little more quinoa and chickpeas, as the original marinade was aimed at 4 chickens (I’ve adjusted the recipe, below, accordingly). As in the original dish, the unconventional combination of baked prunes and olives is spectacular, and the quinoa provides a perfect base to soak up and then showcase the flavorful marinade. Even if you’re not normally a fan of prunes, I think you will enjoy them here.

I love this dish as a main course casserole, but the HH still yearns for the chicken and prefers this as a side dish.  He ate it, sighing, wishing aloud that if only we’d met in the 1980s when I was still throwing elaborate dinner parties with dishes like Chicken Marbella or some excessively rich cheesecake, he could have sampled the “real” recipe.

But of course, that would never have happened.  Even if, by some weird karmic commingling of our (then) diametrically opposed lifestyles, we had actually met back then, the HH would have taken one glance at my bouffant hairdo, while I took one glance at his erstwhile “business associates,” and we would both have run screaming in opposite directions. It wasn’t until the end of the 90s, after having both matured considerably, that fate ultimately brought us together with a coup de foudre. . . followed, inevitably, by our current calm, somewhat predictable, and rather domestic existence. 

Amazing, isn’t it, what changes just one decade can bring?

With its fragrant oregano, olives, and prunes, this dish is my submission to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi.

Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes

Adapted from this original recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook

Slightly sweet, slightly salty, and warmly spiced, this dish is a delectable treat.  Because it is rather rich and filling, if served as a main course, a simple, light salad would be the perfect accompaniment.



29 Responses to “Lucky Comestible II (4): Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes”

  1. VeggieGirl Says:

    Haha, well I guess I should be glad that I basically missed the 80’s, since everyone who lived through that decade wanted to forget it ;0) But hey, at least you met HH then!

    What an innovative, delicious-looking dish – yum!

  2. Meg Wolff Says:

    OMG this looks delicious!! Loved the 80’s post. I remember many of those things. Funny comment about the earrings.

  3. Romina Says:

    As much as I wish I could remember the 80s, I just don’t. =( I kind of wish I grew up in that era, it seems so much more interesting than the yucky 90s in which I was brought up in.

  4. grumpy chair Says:

    This I would make. I love all those ingredients.

    I laughed about the 80’s. (Graduated in 82 from HS) and I remember owning a pair of parachute pants (MC Hammer). Ugh.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Another fine quinoa recipe! I’m a huge olive fan and chickpeas are my favorite legume. Thanks so much for posting all of these fantastic quinoa recipes.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Looks delicious – one my list of quinoa to try! Am interested that you seem to have substituted quinoa for chicken – I would not have thought the two interchangable. I think I keep forgetting the protein in quinoa and think it is lots of carbs.

    As for the 80s, it made my teenage years doubly embarrassing. In the 80s I thought the 70s were bad but now I know which decade I prefer to feel nostalgic about.

  7. kathryn Says:

    Ricki your quinoa series just keeps getting better and better. And this looks GLORIOUS. It’s just my kind of dish.

    I also like that you’ve posted such different recipes. Who would have thought you could use quinoa in this multitude of ways?

  8. Ricki Says:

    Yep, the 80s were forgettable, all right! But they brought together ingredients for this dish, so I guess they weren’t all that bad (and while I would love to have known the HH for 20 years, we actually only met in 1997!).

    Thanks so much! Yes, the earring comment seems funny in retrospect–but I was mortified at the time!!

    Don’t be envious–it didn’t seem all that great at the time, either! I think that must be the case for every decade. . . seems much better looking back!

    What a riot about those pants! I forgot about those. . . 😉

    Thanks! Like you, I am a HUGE fan of quinoa, so could probably post one recipe a week. But this one has now become a true favorite.

    It wasn’t so much that I subb’d quinoa for chicken as that I thought the original marinade would be a perfect partner for the quinoa (and I do think it is). And I know what you mean about the 80s/70s. . . I still prefer to dance to 70s music (not that I do much dancing these days!!).

    Wow, thanks. (I really loved this dish, too.) I’m glad the recipes seem different from each other, too–I really wanted to highlight the variety of the grain! 🙂

  9. shellyfish Says:

    Oh this looks and sounds amazing! I love tagines! They are so delicious. Maroccan-inspired dishes are some of my favourites! Thanks!

  10. bee Says:

    this looks scrumptious. thanks for a beautiful entry.

  11. DC Says:

    This photo screamed to me, “Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Whole Foods!” So I did (well, I walked), and returned with a pound of red quinoa and a few figs to supplement the prunes in my fridge. Can’t decide if I’m more excited to enjoy this for tomorrow’s dinner, or those quinoa-oat croquettes for breakfast the next day. Thanks for the inspiration! (From a fellow product of the 80s — remember “Ali, with an ‘i’; Daniel, with an ‘l.’? That came up at the office just yesterday.)

  12. I am loving your quinoa posts. I know that quinoa is super-healthy, so I am trying to eat more of it. Keep the great recipes coming!

  13. Ricki Says:

    So glad this is to your taste! I’ve not had many Moroccan dishes, but I must say that the ones I have tried all appealed to me, too.

    Thanks so much! Looking forward to seeing the roundup as always!

    Thanks for visiting, and thanks for your comment! I think the variation of red quinoa and figs would be fantastic in this, too. And I just had to laugh at your reminder of those names–ah, the simple life of the 80s!! 😉

    Thanks so much! I could probably go on and on with quinoa recipes, but will have to get back to other foods at some point. I had planned for five, but may just have to extend it a bit (or sneak a few in here and there in the next few weeks!). Hope you do try it out–not only super-healthy, but delicious, too. 🙂

  14. Andrea Z Says:

    Loved your 80s description. Alas,the 80s for me were not so glamorous. I was already vegan by ’81, and had my third baby in ’85. I was much into dancing-folk, contra, Scottish, Scandinavian. I did purchase a Cabbage Patch Doll and see Mystic Pizza, but have never laid eyes on a recipe from “Silver Palate,” so I’m geared to try this great sounding transformation with no regrets whatsoever!

  15. Lucy Says:

    Oh my GOD.

    What a dish. Bookmarking immediately. IMMEDIATELY.

    I was a little mod girl, obsessed with the 1960’s during the Eighties. I somehow managed to bypass all the big hair moments by teasing the hair at the back of my head into a beehive instead. And wearing sixties clothes and make up – false eylashes included. Needless to say I was considered a freak…

  16. Ricki Says:

    So glad you like the sound of it! And, okay, this is too weird: we were like mirror-image freaks: in my 20s, I used to buy 60s clothing from the consignment shops, Goodwill, and army surplus stores (got an amazing bomber jacket–a real one!–from the last one; warmest jacket I ever owned). And yes, got many funny looks. Also did the false eyelashes on occasion, but can’t say I ever did a beehive–never had enough hair! 😉

  17. DC Says:

    Five comments on this recipe:

    1. This is DELICIOUS. And very rich.

    2. I would leave out the extra sugar next time. The dried fruit is sufficient (for me, at least) to balance the saltiness of the olives and capers.

    3. I had to bake this more than 1 1/2 hours before all the liquid was absorbed. Maybe I should have used a larger baking dish.

    4. Apparently quinoa is kosher for Passover! I know what I’m bringing to seder…

    5. See #1.

    Thanks again, Ricki 🙂

  18. […] Tagine of Quinoa with Chickpeas, Olives and Prunes ~ Diet, Dessert and Dogs […]

  19. Ricki Says:

    I’m not sure I’d remember the 80s as glamorous, either (though I do recall lots of partying). Hope this recipe works to bring more positive 80s vibes your way!

    I’m so glad you tried it–and liked it!! I also found it very rich, and could eat only a bit at a time. (And I reduced the amount of oil from the original–drastically!). I myself didn’t find it too sweet (it may depend a bit on the wine, too), but for those who prefer less sweetness, I think the prunes would add enough on their own, as you suggest. And what a great idea for a Passover dish!

  20. manju Says:

    When I saw the post title at the WHB I thought, ‘that sounds like a vegetarian “chicken marbella” (one of our favorites).’ Came to visit your site, and found that it was indeed your inspiration! Great job transforming this recipe. We’re trying to incorporate more non-meat meals into our week, and we love quinoa, so will be trying this recipe soon and checking through the other quinoa recipes too!

  21. Ricki Says:

    I guess those ingredients are pretty idenitifiable! I also loved the Chicken Marbella; I’m so glad I can still enjoy the wonderful flavors this way. Good luck with your non-meat transition–it’s really fun once you get into it!

  22. Susan Says:

    I have never met a tagine that I did not lust for. This looks spectacular! Using quinoa over couscous must be a novel textural treat. I want some of that now!

  23. Kalyn Says:

    Sounds very good indeed. You’re convincing me that I need to do more experimenting with quinoa. I think I’ve only cooked it once!

  24. Foodeater Says:

    Pardon my while I drool all over your blog… this tagine sounds incredible. Olives and dates are two of my favorite things in the world!

  25. Susan G Says:

    I’m with Andrea Z: children and natural in the 80’s. We bought a natural food store and we’re still there, going with the cultural drift (everything old is new again, I think). And yes, we had quinoa at our seder, from — a salad with marinated beets and orange. I’ve seen so many references to Ch/Marbella, so I’m up for this!

  26. Zoe Says:

    I was just reading your archives and saw this and thought “Wow! It looks just like that fantastic Chicken Marbella I used to make!” heh!

    The original is too oily and sweet for our tastes now, so I’ll be whipping this up quick sticks.

  27. Ellen Says:

    I am so excited to see your adaptation of the Silver Palate recipe. Before going gluten free (and more recently vegan), that was my go-to dish, especially for company. What a great idea to convert it and make it GF and vegan! Thank you so much!


  28. Citoyen1878 Says:

    what an awesome dish! was the first recipe from the internet that i ever tried out and was really a great success. speechless. i never had quinoa before and am amazed how all the different flavors blend and compliment each other. plus it was super easy to make… thanx for sharing!!

  29. […] Considering that the HH is willing to try pretty much any (cooked) body part from a dead cow, he’s woefully unadventurous when it comes to the vegetable kingdom.  Offer him some parsnips, and he crinkles his nose in disgust (though he did like them disguised as oven-baked french fries–give it a try!); dish up some scrambled tofu and he shakes his head forcefully; suggest even a sprinkling of spirulina, and he clamps his mouth shut like a toddler faced with cough syrup.  He wouldn’t even take one bite of my breakfast Apple-Quinoa Cake the other week (though he did seem to enjoy the baked Tagine).   […]

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