Trout Takes a Holiday: A Hybrid Dish

MoroccanTrout_2Fillets_plated.jpg

A lovely friend, whose parents emigrated from Egypt and Turkey, recently lent me the Food of Morocco (James Beard Best International Cookbook of 2012), by Paula Wolfert. While we cooked together, my friend told me about how the street markets in Egypt and Morocco were set up with food measured out into units for easy purchase– everything cost the same amount. It seemed like such an unfussy way of acquiring essentials that are part of daily life. Americans often demand individuality and unheard of ingredients–custom food–with limitless choices, a mark of their uniqueness. That afternoon, hearing about food in faraway countries was a delightful escape into the simplicity of ingredients and cooking techniques that were centuries old– a surprisingly welcome respite from the overwhelming food options made possible in Seattle.

MoroccanFish_anchovypasteThe first recipe of Ms. Wolfert’s that caught my eye was the Tangier-Style Fried Sardines, and I set out to Fisherman’s Terminal for my fish. I regularly eat sardines, mostly Pacific and some Norwegian, but both canned. It hadn’t occurred to me that in the culinary mecca of Seattle I would not find fresh sardines that Monday. Determined to be frying fish by noon, I improvised a solution: trout with spices, herbs, tomatoes, and….. anchovy paste! The anchovy paste provided the perfect bridge between the Moroccan spices and Idaho trout. It also enhanced the flavor of the mild fish, while adding some of those great omega-3 fatty acids we all strive to get more of in our diet. The parsley, cumin, paprika, lemon, and garlic were inspired by Ms. Wolfert’s recipe. The vegetables and cooking techniques, in addition to the trout and anchovy paste, were Seattle modifications.

MoraccanFishAside from its affordable price ($5.99 a pound at PCC), the British Nutrition Foundation considers trout to have the lowest level of dioxins of any oily fish (almost all trout is farm-raised in the United States). Please check your suppliers though–what your food eats is important!

Directions:

Turn oven to 350 degrees.

Cut tomatoes lengthwise into 6 or 8 sections. Seed sweet pepper and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch sections. Toss tomatoes and red pepper together with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Spread on sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes.

While tomatoes and pepper cook, toast and grind cumin seed if none is on hand. Give parsley a medium coarse chop and place in bowl. Add the ground cumin, paprika, cayenne, and garlic cloves (either press or mince first) and 1-2 tsp salt.

MoroccanFish_spicesAdd 2 Tbsp olive oil and juice of half the lemon to the parsley mixture to make a paste.
MoroccanFish_groundspices

Pat the outside of the fish dry. Spread 1 tsp of anchovy paste on each half of the fleshy part of the fish. Stuff the trout’s cavity with the parsley mixture, or if your trout has been filleted, divide the mixture and spread on both halves.

Remove tomatoes and pepper from the oven after 20 minutes, leaving oven on.

MoroccanFish_roastedtoms

For both the fillets or whole trout:

Step 1-  Stove Top:

Turn heat under skillet to medium, and add 2 T olive oil. Slice 1/2 red onion lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips. Spread onions to make a thin rack for under the trout. Gently place the trout on top and cook for 8 minutes until the outer portions of the fish begin to cook.
MoroccanFish_trout
Step 2- Finishing in Oven:

If you are cooking the whole stuffed trout, carefully turn fish over with a spatula and add the tomato pepper mixture to the top of the browned side. Place in the oven for the remaining time until fish is cooked, approximately 5-6 more minutes, depending on size of your fish.

MoroccanFish_troutgrilled
If you are cooking the fillets, add the tomatoes and pepper to the flesh side and place in the oven to finish until the trout is cooked through, approximately another 4-5 minutes. You may also move them onto the previously used sheet pan for convenience and spacing when finishing in the oven.
Moroccan_ToppedFish

Serving:

Whole fish: Serve whole if you like, and debone at the table.
MoroccanFish_finishedtrout

Or, if you would like to fillet your fish before serving, the head and spine are easily removed once cooked. Start with the head, which will detach easily once cooked. Because your fish is stuffed the deboning will be done through the outside of the fish and the skin will tear where the bone removed. Grab the top of the visible spine and pull downward and the spine will come out in one piece.

MoroccanFish_debonedtroutCarefully take out any visible small bones that stayed attached to the flesh. There will probably be only a few. The tomatoes and  peppers can then be placed on top of the fish which will cover the torn skin. Add squeeze of lemon and salt as described below.

Fillets: Remove from oven and squeeze a bit of juice from the remaining half of lemon on top of fish. Salt to taste.
MoroccanFish_plated

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