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Pilaf with Dried Fruit Nuts and Chick Peas

By Barbara Beltrami

It’s time to start thinking of dried fruit as something beyond an ingredient in trail mix or cereal. Sure, raisins are good, and we don’t think of them as anything but raisins when actually they’re dried grapes. A while ago prunes stopped being marketed as prunes and became dried plums. Dried cranberries are craisins. Ah, what’s in a name? In the recipes below you’ll find dried fruit in a couple of Middle Eastern recipes as well as in an easy dessert. Whatever their name, they all add a healthful and tasty dimension to otherwise ordinary dishes and are great on their own.

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots and Green Olives

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots and Green Olives

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


3 tablespoons olive oil

One 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 onions, finely chopped

1 cup finely diced carrots

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon crushed saffron threads

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup pitted large green olives, coarsely chopped

½ cup dried Turkish apricots, coarsely chopped

½ cup dried figs, coarsely chopped

2 preserved lemons, cut into wedges

½ cup minced cilantro

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper; place in pot and brown, turning once, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside. In same pot, melt butter; add garlic, onions and carrots, and stirring frequently, cook until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add bay leaf, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne and saffron and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes, until they release their aroma.

Return chicken to pot; add stock, olives, apricots, figs and lemons and cook, partially covered, over medium low heat until chicken is tender and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in cilantro and lemon juice and serve hot with rice or couscous.

Pilaf with Dried Fruit, Nuts and Chick Peas

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


2½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, diced

1½ cups basmati rice

1 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and drained

¾ cup chopped dried fruit

2½–3 cups vegetable broth

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2/3 cup chopped pistachios or almonds

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add onion and saute until opaque,  about 2 minutes. Add rice, chick peas, fruit, broth, mint and parsley. Stir and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat, stir in nuts and cover again. Let sit 15 minutes; add salt and pepper. Serve hot or warm with chicken or lamb.

Dried Fruit Compote

Dried Fruit Compote

YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings


3 cups water or 2 cups water and 1 cup white or red wine

2/3 to ¾ cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 whole clove

1 lemon wedge

¾ cup dried cherries

¾ cup dried pears

¾ cup dried apples

¾ cup dried plums


In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except dried fruit and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Add dried fruit, cover and simmer 30 to 40 minutes; remove cover and continue to simmer another 10 to 15 minutes until liquid is thickened and slightly syrupy. Remove and discard cinnamon, clove and lemon. Serve hot, warm at room temperature or slightly chilled with cheese, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and ginger cookies.