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Tajine Tales: Chicken with Smen and Green Olives

It didn’t break!!  I’ve blogged a few times about my bad luck with cracking tajines.  The most recent tajine that I’ve gotten I didn’t take any chances with – doing lots of prepping before actually using it.  I very timidly decided to try it out, cooking a chicken tajine on very low temperatures and only slowly increasing the heat.  I felt like a new mom.  You know the mom I’m talking about – the one who spends the first 2 weeks with a newborn at home sneaking up to the crib and checking to make sure the baby is still breathing.  Gingerly placing their hand close to the babies mouth, making sure there were little air puffs…oh no you didn’t do that?  Never mind then…..Let’s just say I checked on it a lot.

It paid off because it didn’t break and the dish turned out great.  I was attempting to make Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Eggs from Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share by Paula Wolfert (on page 94).  It was a tough recipe and in the end my broken leg won because I just couldn’t stand long enough to pull this off.  Half way through I gave up and just made a few changes.  I’ll give Paula’s recipe a shot when I’m healed.

The original recipe is tricky – I used almost all the same ingredients but left out the eggs and lemon juice.  It still turned out to be a great dish.  Today’s Food of the Sun entry is for poultry main dishes – so here we go!

4 chicken breasts
1 onion grated and excess water removed
2 tbsp crushed garlic
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp ginger
salt and pepper
1/2 preserved lemon cleaned
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
handful of green olives
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp smen (you can make this without smen just add 1 more tbsp regular butter)


Clean the chicken and remove any excess fat.  In 1/2c warm water soak the saffron threads.  With a mortar and pestle pound the garlic with 1 tsp salt.  Add in the ginger, 1/2 tsp black pepper, cinnamon and 2 tbsp softened butter and smen.  Gradually stir in the hot saffron water.  *Note do this very slowly and with a little water at a time – too much water and it will not come together*  Mix with half of the grated onion and pour into the tajine.   Add in the chicken pieces skin side up on top.  Place the lemon, olives, parsley and cilantro on top of the tajine.

Cover the tajine and cook on low heat 275F in the oven.  Cook until the chicken is tender.  This will take at least an hour.  Avoid opening the tajine as much as possible, as opening it breaks the seal and the steam.  The meat should be tender.  Remove form oven at this point and transfer pieces to a plate.

In a medium bowl mix lemon, olives, cilantro and parsley.  Using a spoon remove any fat that has gathered at the top.  In a saute pan cook the chicken on medium high heat to achieve a crispy skin.

The resulting flavor is very unique, it’s unlike any tajine I’ve tasted.  Smen has a very distinct taste and is something you either love or hate.  I’ve never “loved” it but in this dish it works.  I’m really looking forward to trying this again and making changes in hopes it turns out like Paula’s!

I wanted to update everyone – I have not yet picked a winner for the tea set giveaway.  I’m going to give everyone one more week to register.  Deadline is February 11th!  I hope that you will link up your poultry main dishes to this post (you’ll get an entry in the giveaway!) There are other ways to win too.  Check out the ways to enter and make sure you leave a separate comment on this post for each entry.

Also I want to encourage you all to stop by and visit American Muslim Mom.  They are relaunching their site with a new design.  I was fortunate enough to get an early copy of Ponn Sabra’s ebook and was very happy to read and review.  It’s fantastic.  Stop by and check out the site, and make sure that you enter to win some of the items in the super big giveaway!  There are over $500 in prizes including my tajine spice trio!

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Olive Tapenade Pinwheels
Happy New Year’s Eve to all of you!  I came up with this recipe out of the blue one day when I was having people over.  I love the little pinwheel sandwiches but usually they have either a) bacon or b) ham in them.  Neither of which I eat.  This however is a fast and easy appetizer that really could have a million different combinations and is the perfect New Year’s Eve appetizer.
  • 2 packages of Pillsbury Croissant sheet dough (you can use regular croissant dough or you could use puff pastry)
  • 1 can of pitted black olives
  • 1 can of pitted green olives
  • 2 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1/4 of a medium onion (roughly chopped)
  • 4-5oz crumbled feta cheese
  • olive oil
In a food processor add the olives, feta, garlic, and onions.  Begin to pulse.  Slowly add olive oil.  I can’t say how much I used because it was a slow drizzle until a loose paste came together.  When the paste is formed, open up the dough and spread a layer on top of the entire surface.  Then roll up into a log shape.  Cut with a sharp knife so as not to crush the dough, into 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces.  Remember it will puff when baked.
Lay out each round onto a cookie sheet.  You can brush with an eggwash for a glossier look.  Bake until dough is cooked – about 10 minutes in a 350F oven.
I wish I had a picture of these when they were done but they were eaten before I could snap one.  These really are extremely easy to make and great in a pinch using a few things you’ve got on hand.
Your turn!  Share your links in the comments for your favorite Mediterranean appetizer!  


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Food of the Sun: Chicken and Cannellini Beans

I’ve been reading so many cooking magazines and cookbooks lately that I haven’t even had time to make recipes from them!  I have been trying to incorporate more beans and fiber into our diet, as I am anemic and my husband has cholesterol issues.  This truly is a comfort dish.  It has the lemony flavors of the Mediterranean and the added flavor from the thyme.  Beans are a very popular dish in the Mediterranean and using them is a great way to stretch the dish.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup of dry cannellini beans or 1 can of cannellini beans
1 whole lemon cut in half
4 stems of thyme
1-2 potaotes
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
In a large dutch oven add vegetable oil and butter and turn to medium high.  Next add the onions and garlic and allow to saute until softened.  Add the chicken pieces and brown all sides.  Clean the potatoes and cut the lemon in half, squeezing 1/2 into the pot.  Add the two halves of the lemon and the potaotes to the pot.

Add the remaining spices, herbs and salt and pepper, as well as the cannellini beans.  If using dried beans, soak ahead of time for 6-8 hours.

Add the chicken broth last.  Cook on medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour, for the broth to reduce. If using canned beans they will be soft.  If using dry beans the cooking time may need to be longer.  You will want to use more chicken broth to offset the increased cooking time.


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Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake

My recipe today is for Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake with a gingersnap crust.  This is a good blending of Mediterranean and American style desserts.  Pumpkin is often found in Morocco, mixed into couscous most predominantly.  I have found that pumpkins there are a little sweeter than they are here, which might be attributed to more sun and less storage time before consumption.

This is a dessert plate that I made recently along with Whoopie Pies and Cake Balls.


  • 1 can of pumpkin puree (about 14 oz)
  • 1 package of cream cheese (8oz) softened
  • pumpkin pie spice (mix of cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 box ginger snaps
  • 6 tbsp melted butter

Beat everything (except butter and gingersnaps) together in a large mixing bowl until smooth and set aside.  In a food processor crush ginger snaps and add in butter.  They will become sticky but will remain loose.

Grease a muffin tin of your choice size.  In the bottom of each well, press a tbsp of ginger snap mixture.  Top each with the cheesecake mixture, allowing the cups to be full almost to the top.  Place into a 350F preheated oven for 15 minutes.  The cooking time will depend on the size of the cheesecake you make.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.   Top with whipped cream before serving.

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