There are only two words that when I hear at any given moment I get all excited (besides other two words o.k.). Words that make me feel all warm and cozy inside, make me imagine rich colors, exotic spices, velvety sauces, table filled with hungry mouths. Well, that’s just me – Moroccan food. Yes. Yes.
It’s rich, hot and sexy and nutritious but most of all it’s unforgettable. Authentic Moroccan food is never an unhealthy bunch of spicy ingredients thrown onto something and cooked. No no. Moroccan food is simply pure fresh ingredients with one main star – fish, chicken or beef and lots and lots of love.
So today we are focusing on love = Moroccan fish = love.
Ever since I remember myself my mother cooked fish every Friday for Shabbat table. She would start her cooking on Wednesday, preparing a juicy marinade for the fish. Then she would dip the slices of fish in the marinade, making sure not even a tiny spot is uncovered. She would lay them perfectly in a large pot on a bed of fresh vegetables and refrigerate it for two days – until Friday noon. Then she would place the big pot on the stove, first high heat and a few minutes later I would hear bubbling and the house is filled with this CRAZY aroma that drove us all nuts we wanted to eat each other. Patiently while humming in her beautiful voice mom would then turn the heat to low and let the fish cook until it’s tender almost falling off the bones, the sauce is thickened and redder than ever. My juice buds are going bananas now. My mother is simply a Moroccan food genius.
I’m hopelessly inspired by her so I’ve developed my way of re-creating my mother’s fish tagine. Let me tell you – when we have guests they always wipe the plates clean. I don’t even have to wash the dishes 😉
Now let’s impress some people shall we:
Note about fish: I use whole fish clean inside and out and cut to 2″ thick. You can use fillet if you like: red snapper, halibut, white fish – it’s a personal preference.
Here I use 2 medium whole Trout
6-7 peeled garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
2 heaping tbsp of good quality sweet red paprika
(optional) 2 green chili pepper sliced diagonally
(optional) 5 small red-hot dried chili peppers
3 medium carrots peeled and sliced diagonally
2 celery stalks sliced diagonally
1 medium size red bell pepper cut to strips
1 small lemon thinly sliced
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped parsley
In a medium pot arrange vegetables except for the bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Set a side.
In a medium bowl combine herbs, oil and spices and dried chili peppers. Mix well into the oil. Coat pieces of fish with the spice mixture or dip each piece in the mix. Arrange fish on the vegetables, top with red bell pepper. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least two hours. You can leave it to marinate in the fridge for a full 24 hours if you’re planning to eat it the next day.
Turn stove on medium/high, pour 3/4 cup of water in the pot, leave uncovered and let fish get the first boil. When boiling turn to medium/low, cover and cook while reducing liquids, about 25 min or so. Keep an eye making sure sauce does not dry out. The smell is going to drive you crazy. Be patient it cooks quickly.
To serve: get your best dish out why wait for a special occasion? this is it. Gently lay a slice or two of fish on the plate, arrange some cooked juicy vegetables around it and spoon some of this rich red sauce on top. If you have fresh bread don’t hide it. The first bite with the bread dipped in the sauce and you transfer yourself to the land of spicy dreams: Morocco.
You don’t have to say a word…but I can’t promise you keep silent for long…