Bombs explode, tearing things apart.
Good things — like people, like Paris, like peace.
Good conventions — like dialogue, disagreement, diplomacy.
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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.
Adapted from “Around my French Table” by Dorie Greenspan.
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/4 pound plump dried apricots
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 pinches saffron threads
1 to 2 small dried chile 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
Plump: Bring broth to a boil. Drop in apricots. Pull off heat. Let plump.
Brown: 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.
Soften: 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.
Braise: 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.
Serve: Sprinkle tagine with the remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro and the almonds. Serve with couscous.
Yield: 4 servings