This is my entry for Stage 2 of MarxFood's Ridiculously Delicious Challenge. Please vote for my entry here, the top 15 entries will advance.
I wish I were a 60-year-old lady with crazy blue hair and a cane that I could wave menacingly at people who annoyed me. I mean, I already love me some stretchy pants and a good buffet. I'm half way to old-ladyhood already. And if I were an old lady, I could just pick up and go to a warmer city when the cold season hit. And I know exactly where I'd go. Morocco. Yahoo tells me Morocco is also quite cold this time of the year but I'm certain Yahoo is wrong about this too. I mean, there is no way Justin Bieber is "trending now" every day.
So last week, after another walk home in the blistering cold, I was surprised to find the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge, Stage 2, box at my doorstep. And I immediately tore into the box, thinking it wise to examine the ingredients while standing outside in the cold. And since it didn't look like the cold was going to ease up and I certainly wasn't going to Morocco anytime soon (sorry, comfy old lady stirrup pants), I decided to use the ingredients to create a bit of Morocco at home. I immediately divided the ingredients into savory and sweet piles. Dried tart cherries, coconut sugar on one side, saffron, tepin chiles, grains of paradise, dill pollen, Szechuan peppercorns on the other. I left the juniper berries in the middle because I had (and let's face it, have) no idea whether they're intended to be in a dessert or part of an entree.
Now I know the trendy, "foodie" thing would have been to go with the sweet savory combo. But I have only recently accepted the idea of salt in my caramels. Baby steps people, baby steps. I took my savory ingredients and turned to Yahoo. And of course, that darn Justin Bieber was trending yet again. So, I had to read the article(s) on his haircut before I came upon a treasure trove of articles about chermoula, a Middle Eastern spice paste used on everything from meats to veggies. Turns out the blend of spices and herbs varies from recipe to recipe so the stash of unfamiliar spices staring up at me was perfect. I never met a chile I didn't like, so the tepin chiles were a given. The dill pollen was too pungent, the Szechuan peppercorns too potent, and the saffron too valuable to pulverize. That left the grains of paradise. I bit into a few grains and was pleasantly surprised by the aromatic, citrusy pepper flavor. We had a winner.
I toasted the spices until they were nice and fragrant, and tried to pulverize them in my lovely old school mortar and pestle. My pathetically puny forearms were of no help so I threw the spices in the blender with the rest of the ingredients and called it a day. And soon, I had a fragrant, vibrantly green paste. I grabbed some pita chips and went in for a taste test. And continued eating until I remembered that I was supposed to be making a meal (though for the record, I think chips and dip is a perfectly legitimate meal).
Fish, especially a mild fish like cod, seemed to be the most obvious choice to let the spice paste shine. But something was missing. And then it hit me. I like fish. But I love fish tacos. So I decided to create some Moroccan inspired fish tacos. I marinated the fish in the chermoula for a few hours (all the while wishing I could just eat the delicous chermoula with some pita chips) and then pan fried it. While it was pan frying, I concocted my Moroccan slaw. Shredded green and purple cabbage and carrots, quick pickled in lemon juice, cumin, and ground grains of paradise. I layered it all on some corn tortillas and used the precious last drops of chermoula as a dipping sauce.
And then, I put on my comfy old lady stirrup pants and proceeded to have a Moroccan fish taco feast in my living room.
1 pound white fish fillets (like cod or tilapia)
3-4 cups of cilantro leaves
1 big lemon
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tbs. olive oil
12 tepin chiles (or less if heat isn't your thing)
1/2 tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. grains of paradise
Toast all whole spices in a dry, hot skillet until spices are fragrant. Add the cilantro leaves, minced garlic, spices (including the paprika) and olive oil to a food processor. Zest one lemon into another bowl. Juice the bald lemon and add the lemon juice to the food processor. Puree the mixture until you have a thick paste. You may have to add a bit more oil to get your desired consistency (I prefer the consistency of hummus but have seen chermoula with the consistency of a creamy soup so it's really your preference). Pour the chermoula into a bowl. Add reserved lemon zest. Taste test and adjust spices if necessary.
Place fish in large, flat dish (preferably with a cover, unless you don't mind everything in your refrigerator smelling like fish). Pour about half the chermoula on top. Flip the fish over and pour about a quarter of the remaining chermoula on top. Refrigerate for a few hours.
Pour some oil in a skillet and heat. Pan fry the fish. Don't worry about scraping the chermoula off the fish before pan frying. In fact, the more chermoula remaining on the fish, the more delicious chermoula crust you get. Taste test. That is some tasty fish. Stop yourself from eating all of the fish.
Remove fish from skillet and let cool. Carefully carve fish into slices (or break the fish into rustic chunks, if that's more your thing). Heat corn tortillas, layer with Moroccan slaw (recipe below), top with delicious fish slices/chunks.
Take the precious remaining chermoula and use it as a dipping sauce for your fish tacos. Or better yet, mix the chermoula with some Greek yogurt, make a creamy sauce, and pour that all over your tacos. Put your stretchy, stirrup pants on. Proceed to eat four to five tacos in your warm living room.
1 cup green cabbage, julienned
1 cup purple cabbage, julienned
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 big lemon
1 tb. ground cumin
1/2 tb. ground grains of paradise
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine vegetables in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of one lemon on top. Add spices. Mix well and taste test. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for one to two hours.