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Savory Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruits and Baby Artichokes

By Cheryl Forberg
Image of Savory Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruits and Baby Artichokes
Fruit in a savory dish? Generally, I am not a fan. Fresh strawberries or raspberry vinegar in my salad? Not so much. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, but sometimes I wonder where or how my food preferences originated. Like many of my food choices, I think it had something to do with growing up in Minnesota.

In the dead of winter, there were no fresh berries from Chile, avocados from Mexico or colorful Bell peppers from the Netherlands. Back then, our grocery store did not receive steady streams of international produce throughout the year. In the winter, there were no fresh tomatoes or berries, at least not on our table. Our go-to dinner salad (in winter especially) was usually iceberg lettuce, with sliced canned peaches or pears and maybe a scoop of cottage cheese (or else just iceberg lettuce with bottled dressing). In any case, I suspect this familiar winter salad was the beginning of my lack of interest in adding fruit to a typically savory dish.

I’ve spent much of my career as a weight loss expert, a chef and a nutritionist. Yes, fruit is amazing. Like vegetables, fruit has an incredible array of vitamins, lots of fiber and is generally very healthy. But if you're trying to lose weight, fruit is, for the most part, much higher in sugar and calories than most vegetables, especially if it's dried fruit. I tend to steer my weight loss clients to focus on more vegetables and less fruit.

I do love fruit, but I favor vegetables. I would rather eat a huge vegetable salad than a bowl of mixed fresh fruit. I tend to leave strawberries out of my vegetable salads. But I do like to add dried fruit to some of my savory dishes, particularly in Moroccan or Middle Eastern dishes, where the complexity of sweet spices and unique combination of ingredients make it taste like the natural thing to do. Tagines are a type of slowly cooked stew featuring vegetables or vegetables and meat, a mélange of spices (such as cinnamon, coriander, cumin and saffron), and sometimes, dried fruit, preserved lemons, nuts and/or olives.

A tagine is also the name of the clay or ceramic vessel in which this stew is traditionally cooked. It has a conical or dome-shaped top that traps moisture from the steaming stew and returns it back to the simmering ingredients below to keep the flavorful liquids from escaping.

Today I'm sharing one of the ways that I do enjoy fruit in a savory dish. I hope you'll enjoy it too.

Savory Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruit and Baby Artichokes
Although not prepared in the classic tagine vessel, the flavors of this sumptuous stew whisper Morocco. Serve with a tomato or cucumber salad and steamed bulgur, quinoa or rice. You can also use pork tenderloin instead of chicken.

Yield: 1½ quarts; 4 servings
Image of ingredients for Savory Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruits and Baby Artichokes

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Melissa's yellow onion, chopped
3 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ medium Melissa's carrots or equivalent weight of Melissa's baby carrots, cut into ¼ inch dice (5 ounces)
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup Melissa's pitted dried prunes, cut into slivers (or dried apricots, raisins, currants or your favorite dried fruit)
2 6-ounce packages Melissa's Steamed Artichoke Hearts, quartered
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, without stems

Image of chicken cut and fried
Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and sauté until softened, stirring to keep from browning.
Image of broth prep
Stir in broth, saffron, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add carrots and simmer, covered, about 2 minutes.
Image of broth final stage
Add ginger, cinnamon, prunes, and artichoke hearts and simmer until vegetables and fruits are nearly tender about 2 minutes.

Add chicken pieces to stew and stir in cilantro. Simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, about 3 minutes or until chicken is just cooked.

Artichoke Factoid: A phytochemical in artichoke plants called cynarin is used by European doctors to lower elevated blood cholesterol. Unlike cholesterol-lowering drugs that can have toxic effects on the liver, cynarin is thought to improve liver function.
Image of Savory Chicken Tagine with Dried Fruits and Baby Artichokes
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