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.




Peppery Fish in Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: dinner

Cuisine: North African

one

Peppery Fish in Tomato Sauce

A Sephardic Jewish fish dish that's festive enough for a special occasion, but easy enough for a Tuesday. Works with any firm fish and it's ready in about 25 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion (about 1/2 C), chopped
  • 1 T neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp harissa or 1/4 tsp paprika plus a generous pinch of cayenne)
  • 2/3 cup crushed tomatoes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet the tomatoes are, you may not need this)
  • 1 1/2 tsp capers (drained and patted dry)
  • 1-2 fish steaks (about 1/2 lb. total)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (or a sprig of fresh if you have it)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in the frying pan on medium heat. Add the onions and gently cook for a few minutes until they soften and start to turn color (don’t let them burn!). Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute (until it too starts to change color). Add the harissa (or cayenne/paprika) and stir.
  2. Pour the tomatoes into the pan, then add the salt, sugar, and the drained capers.
  3. Now add the fish steaks and spoon the tomato mixture over them in the pan.
  4. Cover the pan and let it all simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid, and flip the fish over on the other side. Spoon more sauce over it and add the coriander. Put the lid back on the pan and cook for another 5 minutes.

Notes

You’ll want to use a larger skillet so you have enough room to turn the pieces of fish over without breaking them.  

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 Stew

Greek Fish with Lemon and Tomatoes

Indian Fish Fillet in Yogurt Sauce




Small Batch Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

I just love stuffed cabbage, but making all those individual rolls is just a big pain in the neck.  It looks good, but it’s labor-intensive and all that work is just not worth it (unless you want to impress company). And, most recipes make enough to feed a small army.  Great for a crowd, but not so great when you’re cooking for one.  What I really wanted was a small batch unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe. Something easy to put together.

I decided there must be an easier way.  I saw a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls, made with meatballs and shredded cabbage.  Make the meatballs, shred the cabbage, and pile the meatballs on the cabbage. It sounded good (and more of a savory, than sweet/sour recipe).  That’s still quite a bit of work.

Then, I hit on an easier method. Instead of making individual rolls, or shredding cabbage, I would layer it instead. Like lasagna!

So, that’s what I did.  It’s easiest if you cut the core of the cabbage off first. Then the leaves will come off more easily.

I started with Joan Nathan’s Chosen Stuffed Cabbage Recipe, cut out the raisins, reduced the quantities, and added sriracha for a bit of a punch.

I cut off a few cabbage leaves, made the filling and the sauce, and then put the whole thing in a square baking pan.  It was enough for several meals, and proved to be a life-saver as I got sick a few days later.  Since I had all that unstuffed cabbage, I didn’t have to cook much.

If you don’t want to eat cabbage every day for several days, cut it into individual portions and freeze them in plastic containers.





I used red cabbage because the cabbage I’d ordered to make no mayo cabbage slaw turned out to be huge! You can use green cabbage if you prefer.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Eastern European, Polish

4-6 servings

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Rolling up cabbage rolls is just too much work. So, I layered my cabbage and sauce and made unstuffed cabbage instead. It's much easier, faster, and still tastes great.

Ingredients

  • 8-10 cabbage leaves
  • Filling
  • 3/4 lb. ground beef
  • 1 ketchup
  • 1/4 C raw rice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • Sauce
  • 1T neutral oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 1/4 C tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Remove the cabbage leaves (it's easier if you cut out the core first). If it's neat, great, if not don't worry about it.
  3. Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
  4. Cook the chopped onion in a saucepan with some neutral oil. Add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper, sriracha, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, covered.
  5. Take an eight inch square baking pan (the kind you would use for brownies). Layer some of the cabbage leaves on the bottom.
  6. Add some of the filling, spreading it out to cover the cabbage.
  7. Now layer the sauce on top.
  8. Add another layer of cabbage leaves.
  9. Repeat this procedure, alternating filling, sauce, and cabbage layers until you run out or the pan is full (stop about an inch from the top).
  10. Cover the pan with foil, put it in the oven, and bake for one hour.

Substitutions and Variations for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

  • use ground turkey instead of beef
  • try a combination of ground pork and beef
  • use the usual green cabbage
  • try adding 1/4 C raisins

Ingredients and Tools for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Square Baking Pan

This pan is a staple for every kitchen. If you don’t have one, you should.  Use it for stuffed cabbage, large batches of brownies, or cakes.  It’s heavy-duty, so it won’t warp. The handles make it much easier to take the hot pan out of the oven too.

Cuisinart Mixing Bowls
I have had these bowls…forever.  They stack neatly inside each other (important in a small kitchen), and the lids mean you can use them for storing leftovers, or for something that has to marinate overnight. And, the lids seal nicely so your food won’t slosh all over the inside of your fridge.

More Cabbage Recipes

Quick Creole Cabbage and Sausage

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup for One

Cranberry Chipotle Turkey Enchilada




Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Summer is not quite here, but I got some lovely tomatoes and eggplant at the market. There was also some fresh mozzarella cheese in the fridge, and a friend posted a lovely photo of her caprese salad. Caprese salad is simply fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves.  It’s a great summer side dish that requires no cooking at all.  Inspiration struck, and I thought I’d put them together to make pasta alla norma (pasta with eggplant).

Pasta alla norma is a slightly spicy pasta dish with fresh eggplant, and tomato sauce, topped with manchego cheese. This is a great meal when you’re in a hurry, as it’s pretty easy to throw together. And, since we’re only making one serving (and using tomato sauce instead of the original whole tomatoes, the cooking time is cut from nearly an hour to about 25 minutes. If you don’t have tomato sauce, cut some tomato paste with water and add garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, and dried oregano to get the same effect.

The recipe is typically made with long pasta, but I only had short, curly pasta so I used that instead.

The original recipe (from the New York Times) called for lots and lots of olive oil.  I think the term they used was “abundant” olive oil.  I love olive oil, but so does eggplant. It just slurps it up! However, I found that by cooking the eggplant on a low flame, it used a lot less olive than it would otherwise.

If you’re really concerned about the oil, you can drizzle the eggplant with it, and then roast it at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes.




 

Pasta alla Norma

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla norma (with eggplant and red pepper flakes)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 slices of eggplant, cut into thin strips (like fries)
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • generous pinch dried pepper flakes
  • pinch oregano
  • 3 T tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup pasta
  • boiling water
  • manchego cheese or other hard Italian cheese (grated) for topping

Instructions

  1. Fill a 2 quart saucepan about halfway with water, heat on high, and bring it to a boil.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on low heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  3. While the eggplant is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  4. Remove the eggplant from the pan.
  5. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and tomato sauce to the frying pan.
  6. When the garlic softens, add the eggplant back into the pan.
  7. Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the eggplant mixture.
  8. Stir to combine the pasta and the eggplant.
  9. Pour the finished dish into a bowl and top with grated cheese.

Notes

If you don't have Manchego cheese, you can use Romano instead.

Caprese Salad

This is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all.  Just layer slices of fresh tomato, fresh unsalted mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves.  Top with a generous drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

More Eggplant Recipes

Eggplant Parmesan

Tortilla Crust Pizza

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person

Sichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

 




 

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs with Jelly and Chili Sauce

This recipe for sweet and sour turkey meatballs with jelly and chili sauce is comfort food that’s grown up and gone to the big city.

When I was a kid, my grandma used to make those classic grape jelly meatballs. Kind of sweet, but comforting and simple. As my tastes have gotten more sophisticated, I wanted something with more complex and “grownup” flavor: not quite as sweet, a little more sour, and with a bit of a spicy kick.

I replaced the grape jelly with no sugar strawberry jam (it’s sweetened only with juice, there’s no sugar or artificial sweetener), then added chili sauce, a bit of Tabasco and apple juice and got sweet and sour turkey meatballs.

My parents were visiting one day, and decided to stay for dinner. I had ground turkey and the rest of the ingredients in the fridge. I whipped up a batch of these, and I swear you’d think they’d never eaten before. Dad was sopping up the sauce with bread. Heck, he practically licked the plate! Maybe I should have called these “lick the plate clean sweet and sour meatballs.”

You make this recipe in two stages, first the meatballs, and then the sauce.  Put the meatballs in the oven for a few minutes to keep them from falling apart when you add them to the sauce.




Sweet and Sour Jelly Turkey Meatballs

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Category: dinner

Cuisine: American

four servings

Sweet and Sour Jelly Turkey Meatballs

Sweet and sour jelly turkey meatballs. Easy to make and you can eat one serving and freeze the rest for another time.

Ingredients

    Meatballs
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, ground up in a mini-chopper (or use breadcrumbs)
  • 2T apple cider
  • salt and pepper
    Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • 1 large can tomato sauce (the 15 oz size)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 T chili sauce
  • 2T jam (I like blackberry or St. Dalfour Four Fruits)
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Tabasco

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Meatballs
  1. To make the meatballs, combine turkey, egg, oatmeal (or bread crumbs), cider and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix everything thoroughly.
  2. Form the mixture into meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter. Place the meatballs in a shallow roasting pan or a cookie sheet.
  3. Put the meatballs in the oven and bake for five minutes.
  4. While the meatballs are cooking, start the sauce.
    Sauce
  1. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir to combine. When the meatballs are finished baking, remove them from the oven and set them down in a convenient spot.
  2. Gently lift the meatballs out of the pan and place them into the pot of sauce.
  3. Let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes until the meatballs are done. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning (sweetness or sourness) as necessary.
  4. Serve with rice or bread (for sopping up the sauce)

Notes

Check your tomato sauce to see if it has sugar or corn syrup. If it does, you may need to add more lemon juice.

I use all fruit jam (no added sweetener). Use more lemon, or less jam, if yours has sugar or added sweeteners.

Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs with Jelly and Chili Sauce Substitutions and Variations

  • Use beef instead of turkey
  • Replace the oatmeal with breadcrumbs
  • Try cranberry juice instead of apple cider (it will be a bit more tart)
  • Experiment with different jam flavors: strawberry, raspberry, four-fruit, sour cherry (you could even go back to good old grape)

Tools and Ingredients for This Recipe


St. Dalfour Strawberry Conserves
This jam (technically conserves) is sweetened only with juice. There’s no sugar and no artificial sweeteners. The other thing I like about it is that there aren’t any extra thickeners added (like maltodextrin) to bulk it up.


Black & Decker 2-Speed Food Chopper with 3-Cup Bowl
I’m not sure which I use more, this chopper or the immersion blender. If you make the recipe with oatmeal, this little gadget is great for grinding it up. It’s also good for chopping onions, potatoes, or whipping up a small batch of pesto. The bowl doubles as a storage bowl (it comes with its own lid).


OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop
Ever hear of a cookie scoop? I hadn’t, until recently. Ice cream sure, but not cookies. The more I think about it the more uses I come up with.

It would be great for meatballs, cookies, or the perfect scoop of tuna, egg, or potato salad. It has a soft handle that’s easy to grip (it was originally developed for someone with arthritis, but it works well for everyone). Dishwasher safe too.

More Turkey Recipes

Quick and Easy Spicy Leftover Turkey Soup

Quick and Easy Spicy Leftover Turkey Soup

Easy Italian Meatball Recipe for One (this recipe calls for beef, but turkey would work just fine)


Single Serving Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

I have loved eggplant parmigiana (or parmesan, if you prefer) since I was a child. Back then, it was a special treat when we went to the dentist. Yes, the dentist!

There was a restaurant near my dentist’s office called Pippo’s (which is now, sadly, gone), that made the best eggplant parmigiana I have ever tasted. Mom tried her best to get the recipe, but without much luck. Drat!

Still, it was an incentive to have good checkups, so we could go out to lunch afterward! I’m sure we were the only kids in the neighborhood who looked forward to going to the dentist!

The restaurant, naturally, made it in huge batches, but this eggplant parmesan recipe is the perfect serving size for one person. It’s quick, easy, and delicious. You can put the whole thing together in about twenty five minutes.

I did “cheat” and use sauce in a jar, rather than making my own, but so what.  I do often make my own, but I didn’t have any handy, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty either.

When picking out your eggplant at the store, choose a light one (in weight, not color). The heavier ones have more seeds and are more likely to be bitter.

I know there is controversy about whether or not to salt the eggplant first. Some say it’s a must, to draw out the bitterness, and to cut down on the oil (eggplant does love to soak up oil). Others say don’t bother. I didn’t bother. One reason being that it takes time (and I was hungry), another being that I prefer less salt anyway.

Either way, just slice the eggplant very thin, dip it in egg, then flour (I used rice flour, but you can use the regular kind), and fry the slices in olive oil.

Top those with your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used a Robert Rothschild sauce, which was so thick I had to dilute it with some tomato sauce; Silver Palette sauces are good too), some fresh mozzarella, and pop it in the toaster oven to bake until the cheese melts.

Since it’s an eggplant parmesan recipe for one person, you don’t have to heat up the whole oven (and the whole kitchen).

I served it with some fresh basil on top and a simple side dish of pasta tossed with olive oil and butter.




Eggplant Parmesan Recipe for One

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe for One

Easy eggplant parmesan for one

Ingredients

  • 3-4 T olive oil
  • 8-10 slices eggplant, sliced thin
  • 1/2 beaten egg (don't worry, we'll use this for something else in another recipe)
  • 1/3 C spaghetti sauce (approx, I didn't really measure)
  • 3-4 slices fresh mozzarella
  • 2-3 leaves basil

Instructions

  1. Remove the tray from your toaster oven, and preheat the toaster oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Rinse the eggplant and cut about 8-10 thin slices. Then, beat the egg in a small bowl and divide into two portions.  You'll use half for this recipe and save the rest for something else.
  3. Measure the flour and pour that into a second small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Next, take a medium sized frying pan and set it on medium-high heat. Once it starts to warm, add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  5. Dip the eggplant slices twice, first in the egg, and then in the seasoned flour. When all the eggplant slices have been dipped, fry them gently in the olive oil, turning them once, until they are brown on both sides. Add more oil if necessary.
  6. Remove the eggplant slices and set them on the toaster oven tray. Top with spaghetti sauce, then the slices of mozzarella.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes until the cheese melts and the sauce heats up. Garnish with fresh basil.

More Single Serving Eggplant Recipes

Sichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person