Tahini, that sesame seed paste best known as a component of hummus, is full of anti-inflammatory mono-unsaturated fats and essential nutrients. And its light, nutty flavor lends itself to a multitude of dishes beyond the popular chickpea dip. By blending it with ice water and a squeeze of citrus, it becomes a creamy, dairy-free sauce for this knock-out fish and vegetable casserole adapted from the famous New York spice maker Lior Lev Sercarz’s new book, “A Middle Eastern Pantry: Essential Ingredients for Classic and Contemporary Recipes.”
The simple spice blend used for seasoning the vegetables and fish calls for tangy,earthy sumac and Aleppo pepper, a mildly hot, slightly sweet chile flake that mat be a little tricky to findbut are well worth adding to your spice rack. If you don’t want to search them out, though, you can make your own blend with cumin, paprika, anda pinch of cayenne, or any othercombination of warm Mediterranean seasoning. The flavor will be slightly different, but it will still taste delicious. Rice, couscous, farro, or any grain would make a great side. Serves 6. RECIPE HERE– Susan Puckett
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
- 1 medium bulb fennel, halved. And thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
- ½ lemon or lime
- 1 ½ pounds cod fillet (1 1/2 to 2 inches thick), cut in 6 equal pieces, or other thick white fish
- 1 cup Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- In a small bowl, mix cumin, sumac, and Aleppo pepper; set aside.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon of the salt; stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned and very soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the fennel, 1 teaspoon of the garlic, and half the spice blend, stir to combine, then cover and cook until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and squeeze the lemon or lime over the mixture.
- Spoon the fennel and mixture into the bottom of a 10-inch metal, clay, or glass pan and spread in an even layer.
- Season the fish with the remaining spice blend and ½ teaspoon of salt. Arrange the fish on top of the fennel and onions; if the fish are 2 inches thick, put them on their sides for even cooking. Bake until the fish is about three-quarters of the way cooked, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and heat the broiler.
- While the fish is baking, place the Tahini Sauce in a small bowl and whisk in half the cilantro and the remaining teaspoon of garlic. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish and vegetables, set the pan under the broiler, and broil, turning the pan as necessary, until lightly browned in spots and fish is cooked through, about 3 minutes.
- Sprinkle with pine nuts and remaining cilantro and serve hot.
Makes 1 cup
- ½ cup water
- Handful of ice
- ½ cup tahini
- Juice of 1 medium lemon or lime
- Fine sea salt to taste
- In a measuring cup with a spout, mix the water and ice and stir until very cold. Remove the ice.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the tahini and half the lemon or lime juice. Slowly drizzle in the ice water, whisking constantly, until creamy and smooth. (If the sauce breaks, whisk in a little more ice water a few drops at a time until it comes together.)
3.Taste and season with salt and more lemon or lime juice, if desired. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.