The scene: me, my new man and a full pan of good-for-you caponata. The first time I’m cooking him something and I’m prepared. No last-minute searing of meat, no souffle to collapse at the moment supreme, not even pasta to be boiled to al dente perfection. Just a pan full of eggplant, capers, garlic, good stuff. Some bread on the side and an awesome dessert. Nothing can go wrong. Unless, you know, someone added way -WAY- too much vinegar to the pan of vegetable mush… Chemistry’s not my thing, but I’m sure the pH value of my romantic caponata was well below 7. Or above 7. You know, whichever is the sour bit of the pH universe.
It’s a good thing I had dessert ready, or I might not have someone to build me shelves. Or re-wire my electrical system. Or buy me turtle-magnets to clip to my oven. (Can’t for the life of me remember what dessert was. Could it have been… me…? Ooooh, behave.) You would think I’d have learned to go easy on the acid, but not a week later I went and added garlic vinaigrette to a batch of mangetouts. As in, oil with vinegar. Vinegar. And I like my vinaigrette on the refreshing side. Let’s just say my man’s salivary ducts were well clean by the end of the week.
And still I haven’t learned. Tonight I cooked my little brother dinner. Chicken tagine with mangetouts on the side. And out came the vinaigrette again. Not a winner this time around either, although he did heroically crunch his way through quite a few of them before insisting he was ” full” and pushing the green buggers aside. Followed by an enthusiastic dive into the bread basket to reach for more bread to mop up the tagine juices.
Well, at least the tagine was a hit. A recipe from Claudia Roden’s Arabesque (only I have the Dutch version and it’s called “A thousand-and-one flavours“- doesn’t nearly evoke the same sense of mystery, does it?), it tasted exotic but familiar, refreshing but comforting and oh-so-summery. A pinch of saffron, some powdered ginger and a healthy dose of onion and garlic bubbled away together to form a fragrant bath for the legs and thighs of a formerly-happy (though now dead) chicken. Two chopped up preserved mini-lemons, a generous handful of parsley and cilantro and some wrinkly, aromatic olives rounded out the sauce to something lovely, lovely, lovely for us to spoon up with the chicken and dunk our Moroccan-style bread in. The only thing I forgot to add to the sauce? Lemon juice… The kitchen gods must have been smiling down on me to prevent another pH-mishap.
June at Bread, Water, Salt, Oil has the recipe: http://bread-water-salt-oil.blogspot.com/2006/06/tagine-of-chicken-with-preserved.html
(Incidentally, my man is hurtling himself down a mountain somewhere in France this week, the week of V-day. Scared I will do a re-run of the first meal I cooked him? He had better bring me back some good stuff, or I might just be tempted…)