Moroccan Baked Fish with Onions, Olives and Preserved Lemon

 

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We made an extra-gigantic batch of preserved lemons this year, so I’ve been on the hunt for recipes.  A friend pointed out this NY Times recipe a while back, and I’ve been meaning to make it.

gigantic batch of preserved lemons

Our local salmon fisherman, Wild Run Salmon, has started catching and selling cod early in the farmers’ market season. I recently bought some from him and the rest is history, as they say! I decided to make this with cod even though it was not called for in the original recipe. This is a WOW dish –  tasty, colorful and that it’s easy to make is an added bonus. Randy and I were both happy it made enough for two meals this week.  A Sauvignon Blanc was a great match for these flavors.  (I don’t this this would be the case with a New Zealand SB – American or French have the right flavor profile.)

Ingredients for 4 servings

1  pound firm white fish such as halibut, snapper or cod, cut into 4 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped leaves and stems
2 garlic cloves, processed through a garlic press
1/2-1 serrano chile, very finely chopped, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1/2 preserved lemon, finely diced
1/2-1 cup green and/or black pitted olives, cut in half

Directions 

Marinate the fish in cilantro sauce

Toast 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds in a dry skillet till fragrant.  Cool slightly and roughly grind in a mortar and pestle. Place the cilantro, garlic, chile, 1 teaspoon of the ground spice mixture and the paprika in a bowl.  Whisk the 1/4 cup olive oil and lime juice together and add to the cilantro mixture. Salt to taste. Stir to combine thoroughly. Place some of the cilantro sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Place the fish on top of the sauce, and optionally salt and pepper to taste.  Set a small amount of the sauce aside for serving at the table with the cooked fish. Place the remaining sauce on top of the fish. Cover the dish and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. You can marinate for longer, but refrigerate except for the last hour.  NOTE: 1/2 serrano packed a lot of heat in the sauce, so I say use sparingly so the heat doesn’t blot out the flavor.

Moroccan Baked Fish with Onions, Olives and Preserved Lemon

Prepare the sauteed onions

Slice the onions. I recommend cutting “pole to pole” rather than “around the equator”.  I learned this technique a few years ago, which results in firmer and less stringy onions. Place the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan and heat over a medium burner. When it begins to shimmer, add the butter. When butter is melted and slightly bubbly, add the onions. Stir to coat, then add the remaining ground spice mixture, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, the turmeric and cayenne and stir to combine thoroughly. Turn up the heat slightly and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions just begin to brown, 10-15 minutes.  Place in an oblong baking dish large enough to hold all the fish on top of the onions. Stir in the preserved lemon and place the olives on top.

Bake the fish with the onions 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.   Place the fish on top of the onions, scraping all the remaining sauce on top of the fish. Bake on the top level of the oven for 10-15 minutes, until fish is firm to the touch.

Serving suggestions

You can place the fish on top of the onions on serving plates or alongside as shown in the photo. Place a little of the reserved sauce on each serving. You can see we served with fresh roasted asparagus – it’s that time of year!  I think roasted potatoes or some sort of rice dish would be a nice complement.

 

 


Tagine: a special earthenware pot used in Morocco for cooking

Tagine: a stew-like Berber dish of North Africa made of vegetables and meats, slow cooked at low temperatures

Aunt Suzy says . . .

If you read our blog, you know we love Moroccan cooking!  My birthday gift from my brother and sister-in-law didn’t work out last fall, so I had a credit at an online cooking store.  I have always wanted a tagine, so I treated myself to this beauty!  It was so fun to cook in and I hope to use it often.  I think it will get more use in the winter since tagines, the dish, are typically heartier fare.  My friend Asya gave me this recipe recently, and I couldn’t wait to try it once my tagine arrived.  It was delicious, as expected with a Martha recipe.  And it was very easy, not always expected with a Martha recipe.  Delicious served with a dry French Rose wine or a Chenin Blanc.

NOTE:  You do not need a tagine to cook this; a Dutch oven will do the trick as well!

Serves 4-6

adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 tablespoons harissa (more = hotter)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 cups stock – fish or chicken

1 sweet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise then cut crosswise in 1/3-thick slices

1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 zucchini, cut lengthwise and then sliced crosswise in 1/3-inch slices

1 summer squash, prepared ditto to zuke

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 preserved lemon, rind only, small dice (optional)

1 pound salmon filet, wild-caught preferred

1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

Roast the salmon to very rare in a 450° oven for 5-7  minutes depending on thickness.  Let cool slightly and then remove the skin from the bottom.  Cut into serving pieces and set aside.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or bottom of a tagine over medium heat.  Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the harissa and tomato paste, stirring till combined.  Whisk in the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the sweet potato, cauliflower, zuke and squash.  Stir to combine, then add salt.  Bring this mixture to a gentle bubble, then turn down heat and simmer covered until vegetables are al dente.  This could take 15-30 minutes depending on what type of pot you are using.

Next add the chickpeas and the diced preserved lemon.  Stir to combine and cook for another 10 minutes, covered.  Place the reserved salmon pieces on top of the vegetable mixture.  Cook, covered, till just heated through in order not to dry out the salmon or the tagine.  Serve over cooked couscous or rice and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

This dish (also called Shakshuka) is served throughout the Middle East and North Africa. There are many theories of where it originated, but it is common in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Israel, where it is thought to have been introduced by Tunisian Jews. Wikipedia notes that it rivals hummus and falafel for the “national dish” of Israel.  As you can imagine there are many variations on a theme with a dish like this.  The common ingredients are peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices plus the eggs.  Many recipes do not include the sausage and some, like this, emphasize tomato sauce over peppers.  I’ve made it with and without the sausage, depending on my mood and ingredients on hand.  I make Chakchouka mostly for dinner, but I know it is often served for breakfast and would make for a great brunch.

Margaux says…

We made this for the first time last night…or should I say, Jason made it (so he should probably be writing this!), and it was delicious!  We made it without sausage, and threw in a couple of zucchinis instead.  We both agreed that it would have been even better with sausage, but it was still good vegetarian.  We also both wanted more eggs with it, so I think next time we’ll do 6 eggs instead of just 4.  We love having eggs for dinner, and will definitely be making this again.  And the harissa really added great flavor!

Serves 4

The Pepper Stew

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 each, red and green bell pepper, sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Merguez sausages, sliced in about 3/4-inch pieces (optional)

1 tablespoon Harissa

6 tomatoes, peeled & quartered OR

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

2 tablespoons fresh mint or parsley

Crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Heat oil in large skillet.  Add onions and bell peppers and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Move the vegetable mixture to one side and add the sausages and cook for a few minutes. Add the Harissa and stir to blend. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook all gently for another 10 minutes or so until everything is soft.  Add the mint or parsley, or you can wait and sprinkle this on after placing on the plates.

Finishing with the Eggs

4 eggs

Make 4 indentations in the vegetable mixture and break an egg into each.  Cover the pan and cook gently for 5-7 minutes until eggs are set.  (I made an individual portion for myself since Randy was eating his stew without an egg – also delicious!)

Use a large spatula to scoop out a portion of the vegetables with an egg.  It should look like a nest on the plate. Sprinkle with the mint if you haven’t done this before and crumble the feta on top, if desired. Serve immediately with crusty french bread or toasted pita and a salad.

Cook’s Notes (Aunt Suzy): If you do not have Harissa, but would like a little heat, you could use hot sauce or add a minced jalapeno or serrano pepper with the garlic.  I would also add a little cumin if I did not use Harissa.  I am lucky to live near Clancy’s Meats which makes its own Merguez lamb sausage.  You can also order from Amazon by clicking on the link in the ingredient list. I think Andouille sausage or Spanish Chorizo might be tasty.  Or as I mentioned in the intro, this is very delicious without sausage at all.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This recipe showed up in my Facebook feed from Food & Wine recently as part of a Moroccan menu.  It appealed to me for many reasons – I love Moroccan food, it has fruit and nuts in it, and it stated that it’s not too sweet.  It did not disappoint!  The recipe suggested to serve these with whipped cream, but we thought they were great without.  After seeing Margaux’s comments about the honey whipped cream, we’ll try them that way next time. As with many sweets, this was great in the morning with a cup of coffee or tea.  Moroccan mint tea would make it really authentic.

Margaux says…

I made these for a Sunday dinner dessert, and they were delicious!  I served them topped with honey-whipped cream, and drizzled with honey, to give them a little extra sweetness.  But I think that they are much better suited to brunch or breakfast.  I can’t wait to eat the one we have left over for breakfast with a cup of coffee!!  I think they could also be baked in a muffin pan, if you don’t have ramekins.  However, I wouldn’t use paper muffin cups for fear that a lot of cake would be left behind on the paper when unwrapping them.  Just do the same process of buttering and sugaring the muffin tin, and it should work just fine.  Mine took less than the 30 minutes to bake…I checked at 25 minutes and they were done.  I possibly could have taken them out at 23 or 24 minutes even.

To make the honey whipped cream, just whip 1 cup of heavy cream with an electric mixer on high speed, adding honey as you’re beating, to your desired sweetness.  I added about 1 tablespoon of honey, but you may want it to be sweeter, especially if you’re serving the cakes for dessert.

Ingredients

  • Butter and granulated sugar, for coating
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (4 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and sugar six 1-cup ramekins. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the confectioners’ sugar until dissolved. Stir in the dates, walnuts and oil, then stir in the dry ingredients.  I’m including a photo of what the “batter” looks like at this stage – don’t be daunted by how stiff it is.

In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites to firm peaks. Stir one-third of the whites into the batter to loosen it, then fold in another third of the whites until incorporated.  This takes some muscle!! Lastly, gently fold in the remaining whites until just a few white streaks remain. Neatly spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins.

Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, or until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides to loosen the cakes and unmold them onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

This is a delicious casual meal for any occasion that’s a lot of fun to cook and serve for a crowd.  Think football playoffs!  My brother and I cooked these great pita sandwiches last Sunday and served them with a number of Mediterranean items – hummus, roasted chickpeas, olives, tabbouleh and Corfu salad.  We waited till half-time of the Bears-Seattle game to serve -my niece, Katie and her cousin make it clear who we were rooting for!  Good meal, great game outcome!  (Go Bears!!) Many sides work with these sandwiches and a peppery Cotes du Rhone or California Syrah works really well.

This recipe is comprised of several components – sauteed onions, red pepper-date relish, sausages, feta cheese – that can be assembled into the pita pockets to individual tastes.  Randy likes to substitute hummus for the feta and these can be made vegetarian by omitting the sausages.  These can also be served as appetizers on toasted regular (non-pocket) pita wedges, omitting the sausage. The amounts specified here served 7 people.  All quantities are adjustable to your taste and number of people.

The Onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

2 white onions, sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet.  When shimmering, add the butter.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the sliced onions.  Saute on medium-high heat stirring constantly until beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.  Set aside.  NOTE: I heard about a technique for slicing the onions that minimizes the stringy membranes.  Cut the onions in half length-wise and then slice in that same direction – from top to bottom rather than across.  Yellow onions can be substituted for the white.

The Pepper-Date Relish

3-4 roasted red peppers, sliced in lengthwise strips (about 1/4″)  and then in half

1/3 cup chopped dates

1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

The Sausages/Assembling the Sandwiches

8 sausages – lamb, merguez or flavorful chicken sausages

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, in chunks or crumbles

8 pita pockets, whole wheat recommended

A NOTE ON THE SAUSAGES: If you are near a Whole Foods, brother John discovered delicious lamb sausages from New Zealand in their freezer section – flavored with Sofrito.  Some Whole Foods have fresh lamb sausage.  I use either fresh-made merguez Moroccan lamb sausage or lamb-blueberry-pine nut sausage, both from Clancy’s Meats in my neighborhood – definitely worth a trip for you Twin Cities residents.  We also use some of the fully cooked, highly flavored chicken sausages found at places like Co-ops, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

DIRECTIONS: Cook the sausages according to directions till just done, but still juicy.  If it’s warm out, you can grill on either a gas or charcoal grill.  Cut into smallish pieces on the diagonal. Cut the pitas in half and wrap in foil and heat in the oven till warm.  To make the sandwiches, place the onions, sausages, red pepper-date relish and feta into a pita pocket half.  Enjoy!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

The holidays have been filled with eating, eating, eating – mostly rich food!   Randy and I have decided it’s time for a primarily vegetarian diet over the next couple of weeks.  I decided to start with this Moroccan stew, which  I’ve had on my mind to make for a couple of months, ever since it was served at my book club.  (thanks to Ruth Charchian!) I’ve been looking for some new recipes that use preserved lemon and harissa and this one is delicious!  It’s a riff on one originally posted on Smitten Kitchen.  Orange-based Corfu Salad is a delightful complement to this flavorful stew, and a dry rose wine pairs perfectly!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about one small squash)
2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed red potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, including juice
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
1/2 preserved lemon peel, minced
1 cup brined green olives (I used green olives in herbs de Provence)
1-2 teaspoons harissa, to taste
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Toasted sliced almonds
Couscous, cooked according to directions (I used whole wheat)

Heat olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon.  Cook, stirring, until spices are aromatic and onions are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add squash and potatoes, stir to coat and saute another couple of minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes with juice and saffron, if using. Bring mixture to a bubble, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  The squash and potatoes should be easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy or falling apart.

Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon, olives and harissa. Serve over the cooked couscous and garnish with the cilantro and almonds.

Cook’s Notes: If you do not have preserved lemon, add the juice of 1/2 lemon at the end instead.  If you do not have harissa, but want a little heat, you can use hot sauce to taste on individual portions.  I think this would be good with Kalamata or Moroccan oil-cured olives as an alternative to the green.  If using these, I would cut back on the amount.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I love salads with oranges!  I’d never had one until I started exploring the food of North Africa.  Once my antenna were up, I saw that many cultures use oranges in salads.  This is the first salad with oranges that I made, and I go back to it over and over.  It is especially good with rich Moroccan stews and tagines.  This recipe makes enough for six people but is also flexible.  So vary the quantities according to number of people and your tastes.

The Dressing

2 tablespoons orange juice                             3 tablespoons fruity olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice                              Pinch of cayenne pepper

Splash of red wine vinegar                               1/8 teaspoon paprika

Juice of one garlic clove (use press)           Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.  Note:  Juice will be expelled when you prepare the oranges.  I always just use that juice, whether it adds up to 2 tablespoons or not.

The Salad

4 seedless oranges (Navel or Valencia)

½ small red onion

18 brined or cured black olives (such as Kalamata, Nicoise or oil-cured Moroccan)

¼ preserved lemon rind, diced (optional)

12 mint leaves or ¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 head romaine lettuce, torn (optional)

Prepare the oranges by cutting off the top and bottom.  Use a knife to cut off the rind (vs. peel with your hands), including the white pith.  This is key to making sure the oranges are not bitter.

Cut oranges in ¼ inch slices, then cut those in half.  Slice the red onion, then cut into half-moons.  Cut the olives in half.  Cut the mint leaves into thin ribbons.   Tear the lettuce into medium pieces; wash and dry.

Assembling the Salad

Toss the lettuce in some of the dressing, then place on a platter.  There are two options after this:

  1. Arrange the oranges in overlapping slices on top of the lettuce.  Place the onion, preserved lemon and olives on top of the oranges.  Drizzle all with the remainder of the dressing.  Sprinkle the mint or cilantro on top and serve.
  2. Alternatively, toss all the ingredients – oranges through mint or cilantro- together with the remaining dressing and place on top of the lettuce.

Note: the lettuce is my addition.  Authentic North African salads of this type do not include it, but I think it adds great texture and flavor.  If you do not use lettuce, increase all other ingredients except the dressing.