A tale of two best friends on opposite sides of the world and their quest to cook everything from
Stephanie Alexander's 'The Cook's Companion'

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Middle-Eastern Baked Fish With Garlic & Coriander, Carrot Salad and Lentil & Coriander Salad.

On the menu at the MacPerri house tonight was a Middle-Eastern feast. Fortunately, none of it took terribly long to cook, as the in-laws were coming over for a coffee after dinner. I raced to the shops after work, brought home some fish and other fresh ingredients for dinner, and whipped up dinner within the hour. Considering that until about lunchtime today, I had no idea what I was going to cook, but I was happy with my choices today. We had to reset the server at work today, so in the downtime I quickly flipped through Stephanie and found the fish dish I wanted to cook. Once that was sorted, I thought it would be nice to have salad with it, considering the hot, sticky, humid Melbourne weather we've endured this week. I didn't feel like anything too heavy, so I settled on the warm carrot salad and a lentil salad. Fortunately, hubby has grown to love legumes, so there are no complaints from him when it comes to eating these days.

The Middle-Eastern Carrot salad (side margin of p224) was easy to prepare, and I got to use one of my favourite kitchen gadgets - the mortar and pestle. All I did was roast a handful of cumin seeds, and then crushed them with some garlic and a good quality salt. I then added some extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice. In the meantime, I sliced the carrots and cooked them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Then I drained the carrots, tossed them into the dressing, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and threw in a handful of chopped coriander. The recipe also called for roasted pepitas on top, but I just used raw ones. I enjoy the flavour of those anyway, so I thought I didn't want to burn them and run the risk of them turning rancid!

While that was all happening, I prepared the fish (p341). The lady at the fish shop descaled and gutted the fish for me, so the hard work was done. All I did was make the sauce, stuff it into and onto the snapper, and whacked it into the oven for about 20 minutes. The recipe serves 6, so I reduced the sauce by about half for the two of us, and it seemed to do the trick. I love snapper, so I bought a whole one, which usually feeds the two of us quite happily. I used about 125g walnuts, most of a small bunch of coriander, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, a few shakes of cayenne pepper, only a tablespoon or so of olive oil, the juice of two lemons and four cloves of garlic. Because the snapper weighed less than a kilogram, I found it only needed about 20 minutes in the oven. It was cooked through and juicy, but I did find the top of the walnuts probably browned a little more than I wanted them to.

Finally, there was the lentil and coriander salad (side margin of p339). I had some brown lentils handy, and made a sauce with ground coriander seeds, crushed garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. This recipe also works well with tinned lentils if you're in a hurry and really desperate for a quick salad.
So what did hubby think of dinner? "I think the walnuts and cinnamon (in the fish) were for dessert, but my wife got lazy and served the main and dessert all at once. It worked well and there was less washing up."
I was satisfied with the overall result and flavours of each dish, and they would work well together or on their own. It was just a coincidence that I made three Middle-Eastern dishes on the same night. After dinner, the in-laws dropped in and I had prepared a fresh fruit platter with my favourite Marsala dip. My mother-in-law taught me how to make this ridiculously simple dip years ago and it enhances the flavour of the fruit it is served with so well. All I do is whizz one block of Light Philly, 1/2 a cup of icing sugar and 2-3 tbsp of Marsala with the Bamix and serve it with whatever seasonal fruit I have. Tonight was mangoes, strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon, but I do love it with peaches too. This isn't a Stephanie recipe, but it's a great way to end a meal without the guilt of a rich dessert!

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