Posted by: acooksca | 08/13/2011

Tagine of Chickpeas and Chard

Tagine of Chickpeas and Chard

The word tagine refers both to the traditional Moroccan clay pot and to the food cooked in it. Cooking with clayware on the stove top is opposite from using metal pans. With metal you heat a pan on high, add the food, and then turn the heat down to cook. With clay pots you start on low, gradually increasing the heat to medium over 5 minutes or so. Once the pot has come up in temperature it can be transferred to an oven preheated to 300-350 degrees or left on the burner. Be sure that the heat remains gentle by using a heat diffuser, particularly on electric burners which tend to experience heat spikes.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into medium dice
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large bunch Swiss chard (see Cook’s Note below)
½ cup tomato juice
½ salt preserved lemon (recipe follows) chopped finely
1 tablespoon juice from salt preserved lemons
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili flakes
15 oz. can cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained

Place a heat diffuser on a cold burner, place a tagine (or other clay pot) on the diffuser and heat over medium. When the tagine is warm add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, roughly chop the chard stems and leaves. Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the chard for 5 minutes, until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Add the tomato juice, lemons, lemon juice and spices to the onions, stir and cook covered 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook covered 10 minutes to absorb flavors. Stir in the chard, cover and cook stirring often, until the chard in wilted and the dish comes together, about 15 minutes. Add water during the cooking if mixtures seems dry…you want to end up with enough sauce to coat the vegetable.

Serve in the tagine at the table.

Cook’s Note: Spinach can be substituted for the chard. In this case you don’t need to blanch the spinach, just stir into the pot and cook as directed above. The final product will be softer as the spinach will melt into the chickpeas and onions.

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

7 whole lemons (I prefer Meyer lemons)
½ cup plus ¼ cup kosher salt (if you use table salt reduce total amount by 1/3)
One large jar with lid

In simmering water blanch 5 whole lemons until the rinds are just soft (about 4 minutes for regular lemons, 2 minutes for Meyer lemons). Cool and cut each into 8 wedges, cutting away the white center pith and removing seeds. Toss with ½ cup kosher salt. Layer the lemons, remaining salt and the juice from the two unblanched lemons into the jar, topping off with the last of the salt and lemon juice. Place a piece of plastic wrap between the lemons and the jar lid. Let stand at room temperature 5 days to cure before using.

Preserved lemons can last for 6 months refrigerated. They add a flavor boost to anything that benefits from lemon juice and salt: soups and stews, salad dressings, beans, pastas, steamed vegetables, brushed on fish, marinades for chicken or lamb or tossed with roasted potatoes.



  1. Chard is a popular ingredient on all the food shows this season – being pronounced “SH ard”

    Great articles and recipes as always.

    • Valerie: I am so out of vogue with my pronounciation of CHard! If they someday start pronouncing SHicken I might have to update.


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