Even though I aspire to eat meals comprised mostly of vegetables, leafy greens, beans, and whole grains, I'll always be a carnivore at heart. Growing up, the dinner that was put in front of me every night almost always had meat, chicken or fish on it along with a vegetable, a starch and a side salad. Call me a victim of tradition but to this day, if there's no meat on my plate at dinnertime I still feel like something is missing. However never does that thought cross my mind in the case of this Vegetarian Tagine.
Our life experiences -- even the briefest ones -- can have a profound affect on us. They can shape and help define who we become or form the foundation of what inspires us. While modeling in my late teens and 20s I had the opportunity to visit Morocco a dozen or so times. Each time I was there we would eat the most incredible meal served in a deep covered clay dish: a tagine, a slow cooked stew, both made and served in a traditional pot. If the sight of that casserole type dish with a cone shaped top wasn't exotic enough for me, the aroma released upon the lid being removed would bring me to my knees. The hypnotic scents from an abundance of fragrant spices like cinnamon, cumin, and ginger, emerging from a tomato based sauce blanketing an array of fork tender vegetables and chickpeas is just about the most mouthwatering and intoxicating smell I can think of.
So where was the meat? While many tagines are indeed made with meat, fish or chicken, the vegetarian version of this dish was offered to me more often than not on my visits. Still, I found that this was one of the rare dishes whose flavors and textures were so bold that I never missed the meat (or wanted for it for that matter). Whenever I returned home to the U.S. I would try my own hand at making a tagine and years later I got to share that same homemade version with my family. I still have the tagine pot that I carried home with me years ago from one of my last Morocco trips, but I've made this recipe time and again on top of the stove in a regular soup pot to almost identical results -- no trip across the Atlantic or special cooking equipment necessary!