Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ma-Ma-Ma-My Chermoula


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.


Chermoula Fish Tacos with Moroccan Slaw


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
Salt


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.



Moroccan Slaw


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.

41 comments:

  1. wow, you are so creative! This looks amazing!

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  2. Here's to real food! I almost decided to make juniper whoopie pies...just for spite.

    You entry looks Fab! Good Luck!

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  3. I love what you did with those ingredients (use your juniper berries in a marinade - think Northern European food). This is definitely a winner.

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  4. Your entry looks Awesome! sure it tastes even better.

    You have a way with pictures. Your pictures are my favorite, I'd love if you do post with few tips on food photography for dummies (like me). Definitely think about it.

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  5. Azmina, I love the flavor combos you used (although I've never tried grains of paradise). This sounds absolutely wonderful. Great choice in veggies. The cabbages add lovely colour, crunch, and texture. As a whole package, you've presented this beautifully. I'd definitely dig out my maternity pants for a couple of these. Yes, I always have a pair lying around for times like this ;-). Hope you're having a lovely weekend!

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  6. Wait, who needs an excuse to shake acne and heckle people? And stirrup pants are sooo in this spring. ;) morrocan is where it's at, and if I cantle there in body, I'm going to craft me some of these babies pronto! Marking my calendar to vote!

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  7. A cane! Not acne!! Stupid spell check! ;)

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  8. Hello Dahaling... I really do love Moroccan dishes.. oh goodness.. this sounds utterly orgasmic... don't ingredients get expensive? I know that makes me sound frugal..but I agree..pulverizing saffron... that sentence already started burning a hole in my pocket.

    I hope you are having a fantastic

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  9. You know the way to my heart with this beautiful Moroccan sauce. I say we make this, then troop over to the airport and head over there. It just kind of seems like the right thing to do.

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  10. These might be the best looking fish tacos I have seen yet. Very gourmet. Love it!

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  11. I went to a Laker's game Friday night and had chips and salsa as my dinner. It was very filling and covered both whole grains (corn tortilla chips) and vegetables (tomato salsa). Not bad, right? Of course I would have much rather been eating this because it looks SO good!! I miss eating fish tacos! It's been way too long.

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  12. What a beautiful dish! Not to mention, what a creative idea to make something Moroccan. It looks soooo good and the Moroccan slaw is definitely a dish I want to try! :)

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  13. Love this Moroccan twist on fish tacos! And I would have had a hard time not making a meal out of that vibrant green chermoula and pita chips, too. P.S. Juniper berries are what gin is made of ;) Some bathtub gin maybe?

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  14. I love your blog and would like to pass on this award to you , go here for the details http://yumanddelish.blogspot.com/2011/02/blueberry-pancakes-with-maple-cinnamon.html

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  15. What! ofcourse dips are meals. I just wrote a post declaring just that. And you can't make me feel bad about it now. I love chermoula myself and its SO good for marination

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  16. Thanks for sharing! We don't get fish tacos so much over here on the east coast, and I've been meaning to make some myself to satisfy post-CA trip cravings...The chermoula twist is a great idea.

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  17. Wow, what a truly inspired dish. I love fish marinated in spices before being cooked; I bet your spices gave it lots of flavor. Good luck on the contest. Will click over there to vote. :-)

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  18. that chermoula sounds amazing!! might have to try it with some of my leftover spices :) ...and i'd probably do it with chips, too!

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  19. Delish, I want to make this asap! and I really like your photos, very crisp and inviting! You know you have my vote! :)

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  20. Oh girl, the other contestants don't stand a chance. This is gorgeous, yummy, creative and everything else I can think of. Gotta go vote.

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  21. Wow, your fish taco looks delicious with all the yummie spices...what a lovely meal it makes...

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  22. Azmeena... I'm in half a mind to kidnap you and MAKE you cook this for me :) Its dinnertime here, I'm at school and I know a measly turkey sandwich awaits me at home for dinner :( Great recipe and great writing my friend. Never heard of chermoula but your post has prompted me to go and read more.

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  23. I love Moroccan food and don't know it well. This chermoula sounds fabulous and full of flavor!

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  24. You are so cute. Can I come and retire to Morocco with you? I want to visit that country so badly! And I think it's warm there too ;-) This looks like a stunning dish. What a great job with those surprising and unique ingredients. Thanks for sharing, sweet woman. I hope you have a great Wednesday. Happy Hump Day!

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  25. The tacos look really tasty. I used the tepin chiles, too - interesting, weren't they? Good luck with the contest!

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  26. You are so brave to air your granny pants so publicly:) We all hide them in our closets, and only our poor husbands and kids know about them:)
    I don't blame you for wanting to eat the chermoula - it looks fantastic! I love the idea of marinating the fish in it. I'll have to steal it next time I make fish tacos.
    Your dish is very vibrant and fresh, redolent of Morocco.
    I am off to vote! Good luck!

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  27. I love fish tacos! This looks so fresh... you've got my vote!

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  28. Hey there , Congratz on the top 9 :).

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  29. Wow - I can tell those taste good just by looking at the pictures! I'm now on a hunt for the Grains of Paradise, and a different song to be stuck in my head (yeah...thanks for that!)

    : )

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  30. This is a perfect recipe for me! I lead trips to Morocco every year and adore the food (with chermoula being high on the list) and I live in Mexico, where tacos abound. Why didn't I think of this? Thank you so much--you'll get my vote!

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  31. ok, it took me a few moments then it came flooding back....ma-ma-ma my chermoula!
    great job with the challenge, you did Marx foods proud with your Chermoula!
    cheers
    Dennis

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  32. That post title is cracking me up! Nothing like 80s music...dish sounds wonderful as well, fish tacos are one of my all-time favorites!

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  33. Hilarious. Every time I stop by I get a huge smile and new inspiration. Thanks darling!

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  34. That looks yummy. How the heck do you manage turning something out like this while being a lawyer (believe me, I know, having been one myself here in San Francisco)? Good luck in the contest!

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  35. I am all over fish tacos, and yours look wonderful, but what are "grains of paradise"? I've never heard of it, is there another name?

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  36. The savory-sweet thing is so overdone. I'd rather do a spicy thing, although I've never tried chermoula.
    And your dish looks wonderful!

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  37. omg fish tacos are the shiz, I have never had chermoula so it'll be something I'll have to try next time. I think we all have a lil crazy old lady with the blue hair in us, especially when the weather is being ridiculous. Beautiful recipe and what a neat contest! Can't wait to see round 3...

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  38. I had fish tacos for the first time yesterday...yours look so much better. Great job

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  39. Love Chermoula and to use the sauce in fish tacos is brilliant!

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