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Lamb tagine brings traditions, people together

Leah Eskin

Bombs explode, tearing things apart. Good things — like people, like Paris, like peace. Conventions crumple. Good conventions — like dialogue, disagreement, diplomacy. Bonds fray into fear.

We fear for the open mind, open heart, open door.

We stew on these thoughts and stir a stew. This version, a tagine, is fragrant with the flavors of Arab cuisine — coriander, cinnamon and saffron. We know it from many a meal in Paris, where it has sustained generations of hungry students. It steams savory and sweet, familiar and foreign, wise and winsome.

Together in the tagine, two traditions intertwine; they meld into something complex, something worthy, something we know to be good.

Lamb Tagine

Prep: 1 hour

Cook: 1 hour 15 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

13/4 cups chicken broth

1/4 pound plump dried apricots

6 tablespoons (or so) olive oil

13/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into 11/2-inch cubes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes

2 pinches saffron threads

1 to 2 small dried chili peppers

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Prepared couscous, for serving

Bring broth to a boil. Drop in apricots. Pull off heat. Let plump.

In a Dutch oven, large heavy skillet or tagine bottom, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high. Pat the lamb dry, then drop into the hot oil — no crowding. Brown on all sides, 4-6 minutes. Use tongs and a mitt-covered hand (oil may spatter) to lift out meat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the fat out of the pan, leaving any stuck bits.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Tumble in the onions and garlic; cook, stirring, 10 minutes. Pour in tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until soft, adding a little more oil if needed, about 10 minutes.

Drain the broth into the pan (set aside apricots). Crumble in saffron. Stir in the chilies, coriander, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Slide in the meat and any juices. Top with the apricots.

Seal the pan with foil, clap on the lid

and slide it into a

325-degree oven. Let bake, 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Sprinkle tagine with the remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro and the almonds. Serve with couscous.

Provenance: Adapted from “Around my French Table” by Dorie Greenspan.