My Fish Tajine is excerpted from my latest cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen.
I just cannot tell you without incurring a serious risk of bragging, how many thousands of my fans make it: it has even become a Shabbat staple for countless of them. Israelis affectionately call this fish tajine Chraimi, insisting that’s what Moroccans call it. (Hello! Never heard of the word Chraimi in Morocco! Something probably got lost, or should I say gained, in translation . . .) We just called it fish tajine and dug in, mopping the sauces with nice hunks of our Moroccan bread. OK, I concede Chraimi is more intriguing and sounds like more fun.
Preserved Lemons in Fish Tajine
This is precisely the kind of dish where preserved lemons make all the difference: You should always have them on hand, as they are heavenly in this and many other dishes. Please note the dish has no added salt as the preserved lemon is enough to season it. Two ingredients (lemons and salt), a few minutes’ work and a little elbow grease is all you need to make a six months supply of preserved lemons. In a pinch, substitute 1 thinly sliced lemon, and be prepared for a Chraimi 90 percent as good.
Any Thick Firm Fish is Suitable for Fish Tajine
Salmon, cod, tilapia, any fish that will stand up to stovetop cooking. No need to use expensive fish here, as the dish has so much going for it. My daughter Bella asked me to make sure I don’t forget to recommend using diced mock shrimp too, her favorite.
Three Valuable Fish Tajine Variations
- With added chickpeas. As pictured. You will get an amazing complete one-pot dinner
- Fishballs. Grind the fish and prepare the fish balls mixture as instructed
- Vegan. Same recipe and same instructions, substituting extra firm diced tofu for the fish. In the vegan version the inclusion of chickpeas will be doubly welcome, as they will add loads of great fiber and plant protein.
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, diced small
- 1 large red bell pepper, sliced thin lengthwise
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- Good pinch ground cloves
- 3 bay leaves, or ½ teaspoon ground
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch flat parsley
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- ½ preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed (settle for 1 lemon, skin and all, sliced thin)
- optional: 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained
- 8 serving pieces salmon fillet, or any other thick fish (or 2 pounds mock shrimp, cut across in thirds). Vegan: substitute 2 pounds extra firm tofu, diced.
In a large wide-bottom pot, bring the water, oil, tomatoes, red bell pepper, red pepper flakes, cloves, bay leaves, and paprika to a boil.
Meanwhile, coarsely grind the garlic, parsley, cilantro, and preserved lemon in a food processor using the pulse button. Add the ground mixture to the pot and stir. Add the red pepper, the optional chickpeas and the fish (or the fishballs if you are making fishballs, or the tofu if you are making the dish vegan), and bring to a boil.
Reduce the temperature to medium and cook covered for 20 minutes. Transfer the fish onto a platter with a slotted spoon.
Check the cooking liquids in the pot: If they are too thin, reduce them at high temperature until thickened. Pour the sauce over the fish. Serve hot or at room temperature, making sure you top each serving with the sauce. Makes 8 servings.
Variations: Moroccan Fishballs Tajine
Every bit as popular as the mother Fish Tajine Recipe.
I hope you don't use Gefilte fish in a desire to save time on grinding the fish (I have often seen it done, to great disadvantage, hence the friendly and firm warning). Using this gimmick will save you a negligible amount of time, while lots of good flavor and texture will be lost. Grinding fish in a food processor is a snap and takes a minute or two, and you will end up with a far superior dish.
Use all ingredients and instructions just as directed, but first grind 2 pounds of fish (salmon, tilapia, cod, any nice you find at the market, no need to get anything expensive) with 2 eggs, a little oil, salt and pepper, to a smooth paste: that's the whole story! Wait for the mixture to come to a boil, shape balls and throw them in the pot. Process with the recipe just as directed.