Soft white fish and fresh herbs simmered in a pot of fragrant homemade tomato and garlic sauce. Soon to be yours.
When our chef Esther immigrated to Israel from Morocco, she brought with her the flavors of her homeland, as well as two kids and a hubby in tow, at the ripe old age of 18. Now, many many years later, she’s letting us in on her secrets, the hows and whys; the spicy red paprika infused with oil, the CILANTRO NOT PARSLEY, the amount of garlic cloves so numerous we won’t even bother to count them.
Esther also happens to be my landlady. The week after I gave birth to my son, I vaguely recall her yelling with lungs that don’t quite match her age, “ESTAAAAAAAY”, from her top porch. Smudging the mascara from my eyes I tumble outside to see what has happened….hopefully no one fell upstairs, or has my daughter run away without me noticing once again? I am instead pleasantly greeted with a hot plate of fresh saffron rice, green beans, and chicken soup. She’s pretty awesome!
Nevertheless, we have been contemplating a move to a bigger place, on and off for the past couple years. One Channukah, when we were really serious about it- new year coming up- you know, change and the holidays, we had our annual friends holiday bash. Music was going, there was a pretty intense game of beer pong happening in the kitchen that I didn’t want to have to think about cleaning up, and there was a knock on our door. There’s Esther, dear sweet Esther! With a steaming plate of Sphingim(those moroccan donuts you either love or have never heard of-kind of like our moshav). My husband’s friends, Israelis who literally grew up on this stuff, attack the plate like a pack of hyenas. The amount of oil and powered sugar consumed is unhealthy really, but it’s the holidays! Who cares. So my husband looks up at me with a donut in his hand, eyes wide, and very serious, he says “Babe, we are NOT moving”.
Before we get to the recipe, some Q’s you might have….
Why soak the fish in lemon?
You know that fishy smell that sometimes lingers even after it has been cooked? The lemon helps get rid of that fishy smell! Thank you, citrus juices.
Why is there a piece of bread in my fluffy fish pillow?
Ever had a hard, dense meatball? Yeah, not so great, and not so fluffy! Fluff is the word here. It’s always the word in my house, because fluffy things are awesome. You want to break into that pillow of flavor and think wow, that is SOFT! When the bread absorbs moisture it will puff up and give you that light texture you’re looking for.
Should I wash my fresh herbs?
YES! Unless it says prewashed on the package. As soon as you get home from the market, take your herbs and put them in a bowl with a couple drops of soap, and cover with water. Let sit for around 3 minutes, rinse and dry. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for UP TO 3 WEEKS. You heard that right! I do this with lettuce and can’t even believe the results. Amazing!
Savory Moroccan Fish “Ktzitzot”
- 1/2 Kilo Nile Perch fish fillets Fresh or frozen with skin removed
- 1/2 Kilo Cod fish fillets Fresh or frozen with skin removed
- 1 Onion Grated(use your food processor!)
- 1 Slice White bread
- Handful Parsley
- 1/2 tsp. Black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. Cumin
- 1 Tbs. Canola oil
- 2 Tbs. Oil
- 4-5 Ripe tomatoes Grated in food processor
- 3 Garlic cloves Chopped
- 4 Garlic cloves Chopped into larger chunks
- 2 Tbs. Tomato paste
- 1 small cup water
- 1 Tbs. Moroccan paprika
- 1 tsp. Turmeric
- Small handful Little dried chili peppers, whole
- Handful Cilantro Roughly chopped
- Place fish in a bowl with juice of one lemon. Cover with water and let sit for 1/2 hour.
Fish, bread, onion, parsley
- Drain fish and place in food processor(you can use a hand blender as well) with bread, onion,and parsley. Pulse until ready. We are not making baby food- you still want to see flakes of parsley!
- Add in your spices- pepper, cumin, salt, oil, and mix by hand. Set aside.
- In a wide rimmed pan or shallow pot heat oil, 3 garlic cloves, and grated tomatoes. When fragrant, add in paprika, turmeric, salt, and tomato paste. Cook about 15 minutes on medium heat. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil(it should thicken a bit).
Shaping em up!
- Turn heat to low, take out your fish mix, and fill a small bowl with water. Wet hands and roll into balls. Place your thumb and pointer finger together-that’s how big the ball should be. Place gently on top of sauce.
- Sprinkle chilies around the balls and add the 4 garlic cloves. Cover and simmer for 30 Min.
- Sprinkle cilantro over everything, cover and cook about 20 min, or until the sauce has thickened a bit and is a beautiful red color.
- Serve this dish on small individual plate next to warm challah on Friday night of Shabbat, and pray for leftovers!