Sephardic Fish in Peppery Tomato Sauce

This easy and delicious fish in peppery tomato sauce is flavored with garlic, coriander, harissa, and piquant capers, bathed in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. It’s another one of those “Jewish” recipes you may not recognize as Jewish. In America we tend to think of “Ashkenazi” food as Jewish, call it a day, and forget about the Sephardim. This is a terrible mistake, since Sephardic food (Spanish, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, and North African) is spicy, flavorful, and has much more variety than its Eastern European cousins.   In fact, one day, I want to skip the Eastern European Passover and have a Sephardic one instead! Goals! 

I’ve adapted this recipe from The Book of Jewish Food , which says that fish is  considered a symbol of abundance, making it a favorite dish for Friday night (Sabbath) meals. Fish was also popular in Morocco and Italy for weddings, as it was thought to symbolize fruitfulness. For Rosh Hashanah, it was served with the head left on, so Jews would be “ ‘ahead with good deeds and serve as a model of goodness. ’ ”  I think this dish certainly fits the bill.

The nice thing is that you don’t have to wait for a holiday or a special occasion to make it. It’s ready in about 25 minutes, so it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner.

If you’re not familiar with harissa, it’s a hot chili garlic sauce used for fish, chicken, and lots of other dishes in North Africa. As I am writing this, it occurs to me that it’s a bit like African sriracha sauce.  If you have some, or can get some, use it. If not, a mixture of cayenne and paprika will work just fine.

I also saw another, similar recipe (called chraime) that referred to this as Sephardic “gefilte fish.” Never having been a big fan of gefilte fish, I’ll take this recipe in a New York minute!

The dish will work with any firm fish, such as grouper, red snapper, or cod. I used cod from Trader Joe’s (the frozen fish is inexpensive and good quality). Serve it with rice (as I did), or make it with couscous.




Fish in Peppery Tomato Sauce Substitutions and Variations

  • Try sriracha or chili garlic sauce instead of the harissa paste (with a bit more coriander added this is similar to a Tunisian version of this dish)
  • Use cumin, tomato paste, and both sweet and hot peppers in the sauce
  • Add olive oil, then the fish, then top that with one or two whole garlic cloves, more salt and pepper, and more coriander, and let it cook on a grill for half an hour (if you like fresh cooked tomatoes, put them under and over the fish

Try These Other Fish Recipes

easy mediterranean fish stewEasy Mediterranean Fish Stew

Variations on this stew are popular all over the Mediterranean, as well as in San Francisco.  Make it (and eat it) in half an hour. Or, go up to to the point of adding the fish, freeze the stew, and then finish and eat some other time.

greek fish with lemon and tomatoesGreek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

A quick marinade, and a fast pan-fry produces a delicious dinner in a few minutes.  One bowl, one pan, one meal.

 

fish fillet with yogurt sauceIndian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

Fish with an Indian flair.  It’s flavored with cumin, garam masala, and just a bit of ginger, all bathed in a creamy yogurt sauce.

 

 pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan Fried Tilapia in Lemon Butter Sauce

A simple lemon-butter sauce, a pinch of mustard, and a sprinkle of rosemary add a lot of flavor without a lot of effort.  Ready in fifteen minutes.

 




Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

This week’s recipe was going to be something else, but then I realized I hadn’t defrosted it.  Oops. No matter, this  Indian fish fillet in yogurt sauce recipe will do quite nicely instead.  You’ll just have to wait for the other recipe!

This is adapted from The Wednesday Chef , who in turn adapted it from Madhur Joffrey.  Since the amounts are smaller, you don’t have to heat up the oven. You can make this in the toaster oven instead. It heats up more quickly and it’s easier to clean too!

All you have to do is lightly fry some onions, pour them onto a tray, season and mix the yogurt, and then pour all of that over the fish.

It’s maybe ten minutes of prep, and 20 minutes of baking.  While it bakes, pour yourself a glass of wine or a beer or make some rice to go with it. Or both.

You end up with a rich, creamy sauce that tastes indulgent (but isn’t, since it’s yogurt, not cream).   So no need to feel guilty.

The garam masala, ginger, and cumin add a bit of bite, but not too much (unless you want it spicier, of course). It’s pretty easy and approachable for Indian food.




Substitutions and Variations for Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

  • Add some curry to the sauce for more kick
  • Try pan frying the fish (about three-five minutes per side); add the yogurt sauce at the end, off the heat so it doesn’t curdle
  • Add half a hot chile pepper

More Fish Recipes

easy canned tuna curryEasy Canned Tuna Curry

Turn a can of tuna into a full meal. Just add some pantry staples, heat it all up and you’re ready to eat in just a few minutes.

 

greek fish with lemon and tomatoesGreek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

Bring the flavors of the Mediterranean to your dinner plate with this quick, single pan fish recipe. Make a simple marinade, let it sit, and then pan fry.

 

pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

A splash of citrus, a bit of mustard for bite, and a sprinkle of rosemary add a lot of flavor without much effort.

 

easy mediterranean fish stewEasy Mediterranean Fish Stew

Bring the warmth and sunshine of the Mediterranean to your dinner table, even on a cloudy spring day. This dish is full of flavor from fish, tomatoes, garlic, and citrus.

 

 




Easy Canned Tuna Curry

There are some nights when you want dinner and you want it quick. This easy canned tuna curry can be made in just a few minutes. There’s very little prep work.  The toughest bit is opening a can. Just cut up a bit of onion, chop some garlic, grate some ginger, and open a can of tuna. Yes, canned tuna.

If you make extra rice in advance (as I usually do), you just have to heat that up and you have dinner. It’s curry in a hurry.

I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking. Her recipe made two or three servings, which I have reduced. She calls for fresh chopped cilantro (which I never have, so I used a bit of dried coriander, which is the same thing). If you do have the fresh version, use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons.

I have also simplified the preparation a bit.  Yes, it’s possible to want to speed up even a canned tuna curry recipe! I was in a rush! And I was hungry. Rather than slicing the onions into rounds, I chopped them.  I grated the ginger with my microplane zester, instead of slicing it into strips; I didn’t want to bite down on big hunks of ginger! Besides, this way is faster.

During the quarantine, if you don’t have fresh ginger, ground is fine.  No fresh jalapeño? Use canned chilis instead. Don’t have that either? Red pepper flakes work too.

 




More Quick Fish Recipes

 

pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

Just a few ingredients and you’ve got a fancy-looking dinner.  Tilapia is mild, so it’s a good “starter” fish.  It’s mostly pantry ingredients (you just need to buy fish; Trader Joe’s usually has it frozen).

fish fillet with yogurt sauceIndian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

A few minutes prep and twenty minutes of baking. The sauce tastes rich and creamy, but it’s made with yogurt so no guilt. There’s a bit of heat, but it’s subtle, not overpowering.

 

tuna cannellini bean saladTuna Cannellini Bean Salad Recipe for One

Got beans? Mix them with some tuna, serve with bread or fruit and you have a meal. You don’t even have to actually cook anything.  All pantry staples, other than the scallion. If you don’t have one, use onion.

 




Greek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

I seem to be making a virtual trip around the Mediterranean. This week, instead of Israel, we’ve “landed” in Greece. This recipe for Greek fish with lemon and tomatoes is adapted from a recipe in The New York Times.

The Times recipe is good, but a bit too fiddly and time consuming. It also requires a whole fish. That’s generally too much food for one person.  And, it has to be cleaned, then stuffed, and finally baked. Probably delicious, but too much trouble.  So, I decided to make it easier and faster and used fish fillets instead.

Plus, the original recipe requires that you cook the tomatoes. I love fresh tomatoes, and tomato sauces, but don’t like the taste of freshly-cooked tomatoes. So, I simplified everything and added the tomatoes just at the end.

In my version, you make the marinade, leave out the tomatoes, and let it sit for a bit so the flavors combine. Then season the fish fillet, pour the marinade over it, and cook it. Add the tomatoes at the end, and serve. Also, I didn’t make it in the oven (too hot!). I grilled the fish in a pan instead.

 




 

Greek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes Substitutions and Variations

  • Follow this suggestion from the comments of the original recipe: fry the fish for a minute or two with olive oil.  Then add the marinade, a splash or two of white wine, and simmer (covered) for 5-10 minutes.
  • If you don’t mind cooked tomatoes, add them to the marinade at the beginning.
  • Try cod instead of tilapia.  Or, use a small whole trout.
  • If you want more lemon flavor, slice some lemon and squeeze it over the fish.
  • Add some olives or capers to the marinade.
  • Add 1/4 C sliced zucchini to the pan when you start cooking the fish.

More Quick Fish Recipes

pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

A quick dinner, enlivened with a touch of mustard for bite, and rosemary for herby flavor, with a squeeze of lemon juice. Even simpler and easier than the Greek fish on this post.

salmon greek yogurt dill sauceSalmon with Greek Yogurt Dill Sauce

Thick, creamy yogurt plus fresh dill, and refreshing cucumber mixed into a sauce that gets better the longer it sits.  Serve the sauce over simply cooked salmon.

 

fish fillet with yogurt sauceIndian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

Flaky, moist fish with a hint of heat from garam masala, cumin, and ginger. It’s subtle, not overpowering.  Ready in about 20 minutes.

 

fish in peppery tomato sauceSephardic Fish in Peppery Tomato Sauce

A bit spicier than the other recipes on this page, but still not super-hot.  It’s flavored with garlic, coriander, and briny capers, bathed in a peppery tomato sauce.

 




Salmon with Greek Yogurt Dill Sauce

Salmon with Greek yogurt dill sauce is a great combination.  The piquancy of the Greek yogurt complements the rich flavor of the fish beautifully. A pinch of mustard gives it a bit of a bite, without overwhelming the rest of the dish.

The other great thing about this dinner is that it’s quick and easy to make.  Just mix a few simple ingredients for the sauce (which uses ingredients you probably already have, so no need for a special trip to the grocery store), season the salmon, and put the fish in the oven while the sauce flavors combine.

I’ve written the recipe for a toaster oven (since I don’t want to heat up the whole apartment), but you can make this in a standard oven too. Or, if you’re really pressed for time (or very hungry), you can cook it in your microwave.  If you do, once the sauce is made and the fish is seasoned, you can have dinner in 6 minutes.

One of the great things about this salmon with Greek yogurt dill sauce is that it’s a quick meal that looks (and tastes) like you cooked for hours. And, it’s easy to scale this up and serve it when you have company.

If you have the time, do let the sauce sit for a while before you cook everything else.  It really does improve the flavor.

I served the salmon with some jasmine rice (which is my new favorite rice), the rest of the cucumber I used for the sauce (fresh from the farmer’s market), and some beautiful, ripe Jersey tomatoes.

It’s a great summer meal because it’s light, doesn’t require a lot of fussing, and it’s ready in a few minutes. And, since you’re cooking the dish in foil, there’s one less thing to wash when you’re finished (which is always a bonus, as far as I’m concerned).




More Salmon and Fish Recipes

salmon in foil packet with potatoesSalmon in Foil Packet with Potatoes

Zesty citrus, sweet tomatoes, and a bit of mellowed onion create a flavorful and aromatic dinner all in a single package. Plus, the foil keeps the salmon moist.

 

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Cream Saucesmoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauce

Pasta with a creamy, velvety tomato sauce that’s elegant enough for company (though you’ll probably want to keep it for yourself). Use smoked salmon or leftover cooked salmon.

fish fillet with yogurt sauceIndian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

Maybe ten minutes of prep, but plenty of flavor from onion, garam masala, and a creamy yogurt sauce. Just put it together and bake.

 

pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter saucePan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

A touch of mustard and plenty of lemon add zest to this easy fish dinner. Just season and pan fry.

 




Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce

This single serving of pan-fried tilapia with lemon butter sauce is quick, easy, and delicious. I was never a big fish fan growing up, but I’ve grown to like it as I have gotten older.  If you’re a bit wary of fish, tilapia is a good “starter fish.” It has a mild flavor and doesn’t overwhelm your taste buds (or your kitchen).

I got the idea from someone who said she made tilapia with butter, lemon, and rosemary.  I thought that sounded good, but that it would be even better with some olive oil and mustard powder (it was).

You can put the whole thing together and have dinner on the table in less than fifteen minutes. Make the fish, steam (or zap) some veggies and you’re good to go.

I made this recently (just as spring is finally showing signs of arriving, after a truly nasty winter), but it would be great in the summer when you want something fast.  There’s no need to heat the stove or the oven for an hour.

By the way, the fish came from Trader Joe’s.  They have great frozen fish. The tilapia was in a package with individually-wrapped fillets. Normally, I don’t like extra packaging, but in this case it was perfect, since I only had to defrost one fillet, instead of the entire bag.




 

Pan-Fried Tilapia with Lemon Butter Sauce Substitutions and Variations

  • If you don’t have tilapia, use another mild, white fish such as cod, flounder, or Dover sole
  • Swap the rosemary for some capers
  • Skip the mustard and the rosemary and use dill instead

 

More Easy Fish Recipes

fish fillet with yogurt sauceIndian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce

Fish in a rich, tangy sauce that seems more decadent than it actually is.  There’s a bit of warm spiciness from cumin and garam masala, but it’s not “hot” spicy.

 

greek fish with lemon and tomatoesGreek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

Make a quick marinade, let it sit, and pan-fry the fish. Dinner is done.

 

fish in peppery tomato sauceSephardic Fish in Peppery Tomato Sauce

In America, we tend to think of “Jewish” food as brisket, potato pancakes, and bagels. But there’s a whole world of spicier and more varied foods from India, Lebanon, and the Mediterranean. This is one of them.

easy mediterranean fish stewEasy Mediterranean Fish Stew

A variation on the classic cioppino, popular in San Francisco, this stew is easy and accessible.  You can even start it in advance (up to the point where you add the fish).