By Katie Ayoub
July 18, 2019
The tagine is a perfect dish for American menu translation. The fragrant Moroccan stew balances sweet with savory beautifully, relying on heady spices like turmeric and ras el hanout for savoriness and braised fruit for sweetness.
Oliver Plust, regional manager for Los Angeles East Side and head of culinary R&D for Tender Greens, a fast-casual salad concept based in Los Angeles, created a gorgeous—and thoroughly modern—riff with his Turmeric Quinoa “Tagine” with Pickled Blueberries and Tahini Labneh. He developed it at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio, as part of a culinary immersion sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
The challenge was to take blueberries into uncharted territories. “I was inspired by the tagine, but I took liberties with the dish,” he says. “I wanted a fresh version that showcased the warm flavors of a tagine with a bit of acidity, and an overall lightness of presentation.”
His deconstructed bowl sees quinoa cooked in chicken broth and flavored with turmeric and ras el hanout. A swipe of labneh enhanced with tahini introduces a creamy, roasted sesame flavor. Instead of braised fruit, he adds both fresh blueberries and pickled blueberries.
“You get that gorgeous pop of color, along with a good balance of sweet-tart and acidity from the two blueberry forms,” says Plust.
A chicken-skin cracker adds crunch, savoriness and richness. Grilled chicken, along with seasonal vegetables like zucchini and squash, keep things light, and blistered cherry tomatoes add another pop of color and brightness.
“The blueberries are unexpected, but work nicely at updating the tagine, moving it into a modern American profile while keeping those warm North African spices in play,” says Plust.