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To idle at a cafe with a big hot coffee in one hand and a book in the other is one of my most simple and self indulgent pleasures.  Last weekend, this indulgence expanded to a creamy cafe con leche, one beautiful piece of apple tart, and David Lebowitz’s wonderfully and wittily written, “The Sweet Life in Paris.”The admittedly near perfect morning could only have been better if I was sitting in Paris rather than Palma.

I’m in complete adoration of Lebovitz’s book.  Much of what the former Chez Panisse chef so candidly describes about his move and transition to life in Paris, I relate to in regards to my own move from California to Spain.  I really have to try hard to control my laughs and giggles while reading each chapter: shopping for the perfect laundry drying rack; squeezing into small kitchens, small bathrooms; figuring out small ovens and small everythings; a non-existence of customer service (the complete inversion of America’s “customer is always right”); and even comments on eating etiquette.  Having been in Spain long enough, I’ve tempered my impatience waiting for jeans to hang dry outside; I’m now used to the sight of undies hanging from neighboring balconies and windowsills; and I can’t, for the life of me, gracefully eat using a fork in my left hand and knife in my right – I consistently and foolishly miss my mouth.

Lebovitz’s comedic stories of cultural differences and eventual adaptation are interspersed with some extremely tempting recipes.  Turning the page to find one for a delicious sounding chicken tagine, I immediately reached into my purse and blindly grabbed for pen and paper to make the shopping list.  With hubby finally home from work and travel, it would be *the* recipe for a welcome back dinner.

Chicken Tagine with Apricots & Almonds  (adapted from “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz)

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 125 grams (4 oz) dried apricots
  • free range chicken, 2 pieces, legs with thigh
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 pint (2 cups) chicken stock
  • 1/6 pint (1/3 cup) chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • juice of 1 lemon (or juice of 1/2 large lemon)
  • 3/8 pint (3/4 cup) raw almonds, toasted

Spice Mixture for Chicken:

Mix spices and coat chicken

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric (I somehow forgot this one on my shopping list, so substituted with ground mustard seeds instead)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika or pimenton
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Toast almonds in skillet until they begin to brown; in a separate bowl, soak apricots in boiling water

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C (375 F).  In the meantime, place apricots into a bowl and soak in boiling water, set aside.  In a separate bowl, toss chicken with the spice mixture.  I used a picante Spanish pimenton rather than regular paprika to add a bit of a kick.

Next, over medium-high heat, melt butter in a Dutch oven.  Add onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent.  Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes; turn pieces to release fragrance from the spices.  Pour in stock, add cilantro, and cover.  Place into oven and bake for 50 minutes, turning the chicken once in between.

Once finished, remove from oven.  Take the chicken pieces out and transfer to a deep serving platter; cover with foil to keep warm.  Return the Dutch oven to the stovetop, add honey and lemon juice.  Over medium-high heat, cook until the sauce has reduced about one-third; add additional salt to taste.

Finally, place chicken back into the sauce mixture, add almonds, and reheat for a few minutes.  Once reheated, transfer everything back into the serving dish and top with the apricots (drained).

The tagine creates not only perfectly tender chicken, but a very tasty sauce.  Though it can be served with rice or couscous, I made an easy and gluten free cauliflower “rice” to serve alongside.

Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3-4 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • salt and black ground pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons of cumin

Shred, chop, and crumble cauliflower into very small pieces to resemble a rice-like size and texture.  Line large rectangular baking dish with foil and spread cauliflower inside.  Add olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and toss, re-spreading cauliflower again afterwards.  Bake for 20 minutes at 190 degrees C (375 degrees F) or until cauliflower is just beginning to brown.

Drain apricots and spoon over finished tagine

Serve tagine alongside cauliflower rice

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