I recently bought Arabesque by Claudia Roden, and am now completely in love with Mediterranean cuisine (more than I already was, that is). The book details the traditions and foods of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, with wonderful writing and gorgeous photos.
Last night I tried a couple of recipes from the book, and it entailed doing something I haven’t done in years: cooking meat. I actually bought raw fish, cut it up, and cooked it. I don’t know how soon I’ll be doing that again. It’s one thing to eat meat in restaurants; it’s another thing entirely to cook it in your own home. I thought I would feel better about it, knowing exactly where the meat came from, and how it was cooked…instead I was a little grossed out at the rawness and realness of it. I suppose I’ll let the chefs do the meat-cooking for a while.
Anyway, the dish was actually very good, and I’m sure it would work well with any type of fish, though the cod had a thickness to it that you might not find in something like tilapia or even salmon. The potatoes and tomatoes were so tender and earthy, their simple flavors enhanced by the pungency of the chermoula sauce. And the couscous?
Oh, the couscous! However I’ve been preparing couscous in the past, it was a just plain wrong (though I’m sure I simply followed the directions on the back of the box). Claudia Roden’s method is the only way to prepare it…each little bead of pasta is separate from the others; it’s fluffy and chewy and tender and fabulous. Do try it this way, just once…you won’t regret it.
I’ve been working on my hummus, and Justin has deemed it comparable to the one in his favorite little Mediterranean cafe downtown. I’m anxious to try the Tabbouleh recipe in Arabesque…the last time I made it, my friend Amy (who is of Armenian and Lebanese descent), said it should contain way more parsley and far less bulgur, plus more lemon and garlic. I’ll keep you updated when I decide to try it again.
On to the recipes, then.
Roast Cod with Potatoes and Tomatoes
Hout Bi Batata Wa Tamatem
- 4 cod fillets, skin left on
For the chermoula marinade and sauce
- 2/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 pound new potatoes
- 1/2 pound tomatoes
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Slash the skin of the fish in a few places across the thickest part. This ensures that the fish does not curl, and cooks evenly. Sprinkle with salt.
Mix all the chermoula ingredients in a dish, and marinate the fish in half the quantity for about 30 minutes.
Slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick, and the tomatoes about 1/3 inch thick. Drizzle a bit of olive oil into a baking dish, put in the potatoes and tomatoes, and drizzle a bit more oil on top. Sprinkle with salt, then turn the vegetables so they are well seasoned and lightly coated with oil. Put the dish in a preheated 475ËšF oven for 50 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Turn the vegetables over once during cooking.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and place the cod fillets (skin up) on top; place the dish back in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes more, or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.
Just before serving, pour the remaining half of the chermoula over the fish, letting it dribble onto the vegetables.
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden.
1 1/4 cups couscous
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Mix warm water with salt. Place couscous into an oven-safe dish. Gradually add salted water, stirring vigorously so that it is absorbed evenly. Leave to swell for about 10 minutes, then mix in oil and rub the couscous between your hands above the bowl to air it and break up any lumps. That is the important part.
Put the dish in an oven preheated to 400ËšF and heat through for 20 minutes, or until it is steaming hot. Before serving, work in butter and fluff it up again, breaking up any lumps.
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Rosen.