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.

 

 

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!