Yesterday was a day of firsts for me. My first fish tagine, my first time making a charmoula, and my first unsuccessful recipe from the Food of Morocco. I have come away from this learning a thing or two, and I wanted to share.
Lesson #1: Find main ingredients first, and then plan meals. I focused too much on finding Monk Fish, Sea Bass, or Cod. None of these are local to MN. Stressing out over having exactly what the recipe called for was pointless. It made the experience less enjoyable, and resulted in me compromising quality and freshness. Instead of using fresh fish my fiance caught, I chose a frozen packaged fish I had to defrost. I should have had my aha moment when I was defrosting the fish in the microwave(oops), or maybe when I was chewing on the rubber fish. I had it when I started writing this blog, and realized what I knew all along…
When you use local ingredients you are eating food at its peak of its freshness. There is no substitution for that. Meals should be an experience. Gathering, creating, and sharing your food should all be enjoyable parts of the dining experience. I now share with you Paula Wolfert’s Fish Tagine with Creamy Charmoula.
1 1/2 t cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves
2 t sea salt
2 t sweet paprika
1/2 t black pepper
Pinch of cayenne, tumeric, and saffron threads
1/3 cup cilantro and flat leaf parsley
1/3 Extra virgin oil
1 medium red onion (coarsely chopped)
1 pound 1″ thick firm textured white fish steaks
One 2″ Ceylon cinnamon stick
5 small red ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4″ thick slices
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ dice
1 pound narrow zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1″ chunks
1 red bell pepper, peeled, cored, seeded, and diced
Juice of one lemon
1/2 preserved lemon, rinsed, pulp removed, and diced
12 green rip olives
2 T chopped cilantro
1. Charmoula. Toast cumin seeds by tossing them in a hot dry skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute.
2. Blend the cumin seeds, garlic, and salt to a paste in a large mortar. Moisten the paprika, black pepper, cayenne, turmeric, and saffron with 2 T water. Add the spices, herbs, and oil to the garlic mixture and blend until smooth. Add the onion, 3/4 cups of water and blend to a smooth velvety texture.
3. Wash fish under cold running water. Trim off any skin, cut into small dice, and reserve. Pat dry fish and cut into 1″ chunks. Place fish, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of charmoula in a bowl. Toss fish, cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours.
4. Meanwhile, arrange tomato slices side by side on sheets of paper towels lightly dusted with salt. Dust tomatoes with salt, cover with more paper towlels, and press down to absorb excess moisture. Leave tomatoes to dry out until use.
5. Arrange diced fish skin, potatoes, zucchini, and red pepper in your tagine. Pour over remaining charmoula and slowly bring to a boil. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thick, about 45 minutes. Remove and discard cinnamon stick.(You can prepare up to this point 1 to 2 hours in advance. Let stand at room temp.)
7. Gently reheat the tagine over low heat. Remove fish, toss with lemon juice. Spread fish and tomatoes on top of the veggies. Transfer to oven and bake, uncovered for 10 minutes.
8. To serve, decorate tagine with preserved lemon, olives, and cilantro. Serve from tagine at you table, and ENJOY!