It is most befitting that my fish chapter starts with my all time favorite fish recipe. Although my grandmother is mentioned many times throughout this book, no dish brings her memory flooding back to me like this one. Scooping up the sauce with a piece of challah while nudging a piece of the tender fish onto my fork is one of my strongest food memories. I loved it then and I love it now. A Friday night without Moroccan fish is always missing something. The combination of the intensely flavored sauce, the softened hot peppers, flaky fish, and challah is, as we say “mei ein Olam Haba,” other worldly, and therefore the perfect Friday night food! Traditionally, my grandmother always made her Moroccan fish with chickpeas; however, I could not let the non-fish lovers in my house miss out on this dish, so I’ve separated the chickpeas out into their own recipe. Although my grandmother didn’t do that, I know she would approve because for her, cooking was a means to making those she loved feel comforted, nurtured, and loved, so adapting to their likes and dislikes is completely in her spirit!
2 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons saffron strands
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups cilantro, stems and leaves separated
2 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered
2 jalapeño peppers, halved
8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 red dried chilies, rinsed
8 fish fillets, skinless (sea bass, salmon, or any fish of choice as long as it’s on the thicker side)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
Garlic mayo, for serving
Challah, for serving
In a large cup, combine saffron and 1½ cups of boiling water.
Use a spatula to press saffron against the side of the cup to help release its flavor. Cover cup with plastic wrap; set aside.
To a large skillet, over low heat, add olive oil. Sprinkle cilantro stems into pan. Arrange red pepper quarters, skin-side down, over stems. Place jalapeño halves, skin side up, randomly between pepper slices. Fit garlic cloves and dried chilies in any spaces between peppers.
Raise heat to medium-high; cook for 3-4 minutes. Place fish over peppers in a single layer. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.
Remove plastic wrap from the cup; add tomato paste, stirring to combine.
Pour the saffron mixture over the fish. Sprinkle the fish with paprika and cilantro leaves. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 30 minutes. Every 5-7 minutes, lift up cover and baste the top of the fish with the liquid.
Remove cover and allow liquid to reduce down just a bit (2-3 minutes) Serve hot with garlic mayo and challah!
Tips + Tricks: If you would like to serve this dish Shabbos day, I suggest letting it come to room temperature instead of reheating it.
Excerpted from Peas Love and Carrots by Danielle Renov. Copyright 2020 by ArtScroll Mesorah Publications. Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. All rights reserved.