The Accidental Locavore came across this recipe in a recent NY Times article and thought it looked interesting. Cod was on sale so I got a hunk of it and went to work. This was adapted to feed two. You’ll want to give it some time to marinate, so plan accordingly. Some couscous or rice would be a nice accompaniment to the fish.
- 3/4 pound cod, grouper, halibut or snapper, cut into two serving-sized pieces
- Salt and pepper
- 1 bunch cilantro, well washed and dried
- 1 garlic clove, run through a garlic press
- 1 small serrano chile, very finely chopped (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground, plus 1/2 teaspoon whole seeds
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 small onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- Pinch cayenne
- 1/2 preserved lemon, finely diced
- 1/2 cup green or black olives, with pits
Season fish fillets lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. Reserve a few cilantro sprigs for garnish, then roughly chop leaves and tender stems and put in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the garlic, the chile, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, the paprika, 1/4 cup olive oil and the lime juice. Stir mixture together.
Put the fish in a Ziploc bag or storage container with a lid. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the cilantro sauce for serving, and pour the rest of the sauce over fish fillets, making sure they’re well coated. Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate and marinate overnight.
Meanwhile, put butter and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and season generously with salt and pepper. Add remaining ground cumin and ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, the turmeric and the cayenne. Stir to coat. When onions begin to soften, turn heat to medium. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until onions are soft and begin to brown. Stir in preserved lemon and olives. Cool to room temperature. (The onions may be cooked in advance.)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put onions in a low baking dish and spread to a 1-inch thickness. Arrange marinated fish fillets over onions in a single layer. Bake on top rack until fish is just done, 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, smear a little reserved cilantro sauce over each fillet, and give each guest a large spoonful of the onions. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve and enjoy!
My verdict: really good but could be tweaked to be great! A little salty, so would rinse off the preserved lemon, or use less of it. Ditto the olives (I don’t know if the pits add anything to the flavor of the dish, but I used a handful of mixed, pitted olives). Since somehow my pantry was lacking in cumin seeds and I was lazy, I used a teaspoon of ground cumin and the same amount of ground coriander. Spices like that are always more flavorful if you do take the time to toast and grind them, but if you’re feeling lazy, don’t let that stop you from trying this dish. If you’re feeling sticker shock on limes, lemons would be fine in this dish. What was really good and would make a good base for a number of things, were the onions. I used cod for the fish, and it had the body and taste to stand up to the spices. Might have wanted a little more heat from the serrano, but there were enough other strong flavors that maybe it’s not necessary. I served it with some spinach, but couscous or rice might have soaked up some of the sauce (and salt).