This Tunisian ragout called maraqat al-zaytun is served as a main course, but because of the convenience of the olives and their size, I think the dish lends itself well to a meze table. This recipe requires large pitted olives preserved in a mild brine, not a strongly flavored one. You’ll notice that this recipe calls for a huge amount of parsley—three to four bunches, and you must trust me that that is not excessive. The tabil (pronounced “table” in Tunisian Arabic) is an all-purpose Tunisian spice mix. The word means “seasoning.” Harissa is the most important prepared condiment used in Tunisian and Algerian cooking. It can also be found in tubes in specialty food stores.–Clifford A. Wright
Olives Stuffed with Ground Beef in Piquant Tomato Ragout Recipe
Hands-On Time: 40 minutes | Total Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes | Serves 8 to 12
- For the tabil
- 1 large garlic clove, chopped and left to dry in the open air for 2 days, or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/4 cup coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- For the harissa
- 2 ounces mildly hot dried guajillo chiles
- 2 ounces mild dried Anaheim chiles
- 5 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping off
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground caraway seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- For the olives
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 2 cups finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (3 to 4 bunches)
- 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon Tabil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 pounds pitted large green olives, drained
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed with 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon Harissa
- 1 1/4 cups water
- Make the tabil
- 1. In a mortar, pound all the ingredients together until homogenous. Store in the refrigerator if using fresh garlic for up to 2 months, or indefinitely, in a spice container, if using powdered garlic, although the pungency will decline as time goes by. Makes 1/4 cup.
- Make the harissa
- 2. Soak the chiles in tepid water to cover until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and remove the stems and seeds. Place in a food processor with the garlic, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.
- 3. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the caraway and coriander seeds, and salt. Store in a jar in the refrigerator, covering the surface of the paste with a layer of olive oil. As you use the Harissa, make sure to top it off with a little olive oil so that it is never exposed to the air to prevent spoilage. Properly topped off with olive oil so bacterial growth cannot occur, Harissa can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Makes 1 cup.
- Prepare the olives
- 4. In a large bowl, knead together the beef, parsley, onion, egg, tabil, salt, and black pepper. Stuff the olives with this stuffing, using a small, narrow baby spoon or the handle of a teaspoon.
- 5. In a casserole, preferably earthenware, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the diluted tomato paste, red pepper flakes, harissa, 1 teaspoon salt, and the water. Bring to a boil and add the olives. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the meat is done (you’ll need to taste one), about 1 hour.
- 6. Serve the olives with the sauce if serving this dish as an appetizer at the table or serve with cocktail toothpicks if serving as a passed appetizer.
Olives Stuffed with Ground Beef in Piquant Tomato Ragout Recipe © 2003 Clifford A. Wright. Photo © 2003 Duane Winfield. All rights reserved.