Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Scallions

I cannot believe what a meat freak I've become!!! It's rather embarrassing to admit especially since I was the self righteous non-dairy pescatarian for 7 years. "Jamie, what piece of the chicken would you like?" a poor unsuspecting hostess might ask. "Oh, no thank you," I'd smirk. "I don't eat meat!" (FYI: A non-dairy pescatarian is someone who does not eat any animal products and fish occasionally.) I took meat out of my diet for health purposes at a time when my body seemed to rebel against everything I put into it. And I will say this...cutting out meat helped. Additionally, I cut out dairy, sugar, caffeine and wheat, which also helped. At that time I was a seriously strict, anal retentive black or white person. Meat: BAD, Brown rice: GOOD. Butter: BAD, Kale: GOOD. Brown rice and kale are still and forever will be in the good pile, however in the last year, meat and butter have left the dark side and entered the light.

Now, let me put my health counselor hat on for just a sec. Brown rice and kale should definitely be consumed MORE OFTEN than meat. Nutritionally speaking, meat is certainly not a daily necessity whereas whole grains and green vegetables are. A good tip I give my clients is to try to eat meat only once a day. I actually plan my meals such that if I know I'm going to have, say, LAMB TAGINE, for dinner I eat a vegan breakfast and lunch. That way I make sure to get in plenty of greens, beans, and whole grains while still enjoying my carnivorous indulgences.

OK, now I know I sound like a broken record here, but not all meat is created equal. Commercially raised animals lead awful, tortured lives and are loaded with antibiotics and hormones that are hazardous to your health. Therefore it is imperative to purchase organic, pasture raised, and hormone/antibiotic free meat. A few good places to find organic meat is at your local Whole Foods Market, the farmer's market, or a neighborhood butcher. (Find a farmer's market near you by using the Culinate icon to the right.) Many times the butcher will even order organic products for you if they don't carry them.

And lastly, pasture raised meat just tastes better. I actually bribed my mother-in-law with lamb if she bought me a tagine and when I served this dish up, she practically hit the floor. So delicious, so tender and nuanced, she really couldn't believe her taste buds. "It's all about the organic meat", I beamed.

So I leave you now to enjoy this amazing tagine. Traditionally served over couscous, I serve it with brown jasmine rice and roasted brussel sprouts. Enjoy!

Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Scallions

Serves 3-4 I prepared this dish in a traditional tagine however you can also use a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot.

For the lamb

1 pound pasture raised ground lamb (** or 1 pound lamb meat cut into 1 inch cubes) 1/2 medium onion, grated 1 egg 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Tagine

1 tablespoon olive oil 2 onions, peeled and sliced into half moons 10 apricot halves, dried and sulfur-free (the apricots should be brown and shriveled rather than plump and apricot colored) 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon salt to taste 3/4 cup water 1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped 1/4 scallions, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the lamb, onion, egg, salt and cinnamon. Form into small golf ball sized balls and lay them out in a Pyrex baking dish. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the dish and place on a plate with paper towels to drain excess fat.

Reduce the oven to 350 degrees. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. **If you are using cubed lamb, brown the lamb in olive oil. If not, just saute the onions in olive oil. After adding the onions, season with salt and cook until soft. Add the meatballs (or cubed meat) into the bottom of the tagine and cover with the onion mixture. Add in the remaining spices and apricots and a dash of salt, along with 3/4 cup water. Cover and place in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove the tagine from the oven and take off the lid carefully. Top with toasted almonds and scallions and serve with couscous or jasmine brown rice.

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