A Recipe from the Tanoreen Cookbook: Samak Tagine


Fish Tagine

  If you read our interview with Rawia Bishara, chef and owner of Tanoreen, the famous Middle Eastern restaurant in Bay Ridge, you may be raring to get in the kitchen with some of her recipes. Here’s one to try from her new book. And no, you don’t need any special equipment to make this tagine–any heavy, oven-proof baking dish will work. Samak Tagine (fish tagine) adapted from Olives, Lemons & Za’atar)
makes 6 servings

  • 6 whole red snapper, striped bass or porgies (about 1 pound each) or 12 filets
  • Kosher salt for sprinkling
  • 1 cup corn oil
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups thick tahini sauce  (combine 1.5 cups tahini with 3-4 garlic cloves, the juice of 5 lemons and 1tsp salt in a food processor. Garnish with chopped parsley)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, cut into small dice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon seedless Middle Eastern or Turkish chile paste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 6 white potatoes, peeled and cut into
  • 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • Chopped fresh parsley and cilantro for garnish

My mother never used cilantro and hot sauce in the tagines she occasionally made on Saturday nights, but my version is certainly inspired by hers. Traditionally made with just tahini, caramelized onions, lemon juice and garlic, this popular fish dish is prepared when there’s time available to spend in the kitchen. Serve with rice pilaf pita bread and a green salad.

Rub the fish all over with the salt under running water. Pat dry. Heat the corn oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high until hot. Slip 2 whole fish or 4 filets into the pot, taking care not to crowd them, and fry, turning once, until they are golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not touch the fish until the underside is golden brown or the skin will stick to the bottom of the pan. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fish to a paper towel–lined platter.

Pour the corn oil through a strainer into a heatproof cup or bowl. Return the oil to the pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until they turn golden brown. Take care not to burn them.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the tahini, stock, cilantro, garlic, shallots, if using, chile paste, pepper and cumin and whisk together. Arrange the fried fish in a large roasting pan and scatter the onions on top. Tuck the potatoes and pepper around the fish, then pour over the tahini mixture to cover. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast until the fish flakes easily when pricked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast 5 minutes more.

Transfer to a platter and serve immediately, garnished with the parsley or cilantro. Serve with rice or rice pilaf, pita bread, and a green salad.

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