People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
01/08/2003 Tagine of fish with onions and confit of fresh lemons (Tagine de poisson auz oignons et aux citrons confits à l'instant) Clay pot
For 4 servings:
3-4 untreated lemons, organic if possible 1 dried or fresh small chile 2 T. + 4 T. extra virgin olive oil Salt to taste 4 onions, halved and thickly sliced 1 t. ground cumin 2 t. ground turmeric 3 bay leaves, fresh if possible 1 t. ground coriander 4 garlic cloves, crushed 1 1/2 lbs. cod or other firm-fleshed white fish, skinned and cut in filets, all bones removed 10 black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar 4 T. chopped fresh coriander leaves
Prick the lemons several times with the point of a knife, cut them in quarters lengthwise, and remove visible seeds. Be sure to use untreated fruit, organic if possible. Bring some water to boil in a medium saucepan, add a pinch of salt, the chile, and the lemons. Boil 10 minutes and drain. Repeat the procedure, retaining the chile for the second boiling, then discard it. (This double process removes the bitterness from the lemons.) Heat 2 T. olive oil in the same saucepan and saute the lemons for 5 minutes over high heat, stirring constantly. Cover with water and cook at a gentle boil until water has evaporated into a gelatinous syrup. Set aside.
In an earthenware tagine dish or heavy casserole, heat the remaining olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and soften slowly, stirring often, for 20 minutes. Add the spices, bay leaves, and the garlic. Stir thoroughly and continue to cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 c. water and cover; simmer for 45 minutes over very low heat, adding the lemons and some of their syrup halfway through. Add more water if necessary to maintain a thickish sauce.
Add the fish, cut into individual portion-sized pieces. Turn it in the spicy mixture, piling some of the lemons and onions on top of it, then cover the dish and cook over low heat about 15 minutes, or until the fish is just done. Don't overcook! Taste for salt and adjust, then sprinkle with the freshly crushed black pepper and coriander. Serve with regular couscous, or for a perfect combination, with barley couscous or barley grits cooked as couscous.
Note: This is a wonderful, bright-tasting winter dish that allows even people who don't care for the taste of preserved lemons to enjoy this type of tagine. Precede with an array of Moroccan salads and follow with sectioned navel oranges, chopped Medjool dates and walnuts seasoned with orange blossom water, sugar, and cinnamon. Incidentally, Moroccan food is part of the fiber of French life. Even country French towns have couscous joints!