Strangely, over the seven years I lived in Morocco and collected recipes, I never once tasted this tagine. Then, on a recent trip back, it was served to me twice. Turns out it's a little-known rural dish recently rediscovered, which has become hugely popular because it's so good.
The combination of okra, quince, and garlic may seem odd; but once you taste it, I think you'll be enraptured. Rabia and Fatna, the two cooks from Tangiers who taught me this recipe, believe the secret to bringing the ingredients into harmony is to use a lot of garlic. To those who think of okra simply as a thickener, eating whole okra braised to absorb other flavors may be a revelation. Here the okra pods develop a mushroom-like texture while still retaining their shape, and the cone-shaped hard stem ends pick up the flavors of the sauce. To prepare okra so that you can eat the entire vegetable, thinly peel the cones without piercing. This takes some time, but I think it's well worth the trouble.
Some Moroccan cooks rub okra with salt, hot pepper, black pepper, and a little oil, then let them rest for a few hours before frying whole in olive oil. They do this to enhance the flavor and firm up the texture before adding the okra to a couscous or tagine.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.