Traveling through food…

Travel is my number one passion. Either that, or food. Or maybe both. Or perhaps traveling and getting to experience what’s new and different in any given place. That’s what I love.

Food is often the star of my vacation. The first thing I do when I book a trip is not search for the best museums or historical monuments, but delve into the culinary culture of my destination. Germany? What does it have to offer other than the typical wurst and schnitzel. The Czech Republic? Goulash, yeah, but what else? Mexico? Guacamole of course, but not just that.

As I prepare for a trip this week to Macedonia, a raw country laden with history, and later to Slovenia, I’m dreaming first of all the photos I’ll be able to take, second of getting paid to go there, and third of what kinds of Meditteranean-meets-Eastern-Europe fair I’ll be able to find there. I hear they have baklava, and lots of meaty, hearty dishes. Sounds good to me.

En attendant*, last night, I voyaged to North Africa with a spicy chicken and fennel tagine, anised and fondant, that fennel was the star of the dish. Just as good as anything I had when I was actually in Tunisia (where, to be honest, I didn’t really leave my Djerbian resort), the food transported me to another place, and I could picture the barrels and barrels of spices lined up at the souk, and all the body and flavor that they added to my dish.

In the end, sometimes voyaging from the safety and comfort of your own kitchen is (almost) just as good as the real thing.

*en attendant: While I’m waiting

Recipe adapted from epicurious:
Chicken Tagine with Fennel and Olives

Ingredients:
1 t ground cumin (I used much more, perhaps 1 1/2 T)
1/2 t paprika (I didn’t have any on hand and replaced it with a good T of tandoori spices [paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic, etc] which worked beautifully)
1/2 t fine sea salt
1/4 t cayenne pepper
6 boneless chicken thighs (1 1/2 lbs) (I used chicken breasts and because of the poaching style of the dish, they weren’t too dry)
2 T olive oil, divided
2 medium fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed and bulbs cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 C chicken broth
2 T fresh lemon juice (More like 1 whole lemon)
1/2 C green olives
1 C coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (I didn’t have any of that either [my poor cilantro plant didn’t survive my four-week American vacation]… and I’m sure it would’ve been even better with!)

Mix cumin, paprika, salt and cayenne in small bowl (I also added 2T of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon and made a marinade). Trim chicken and toss in large bowl with spices.

Heat 1T oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; brown 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1T oil and fennel to the same skillet. Sauté until golden in spots, about 5 minutes. Return chicken and juices to skillet, then add broth and lemon juice (again, half a lemon!). Bring to a simmer, scraping up brown bits (always, always do this!). Cover and reduce heat to low, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add olives. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

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