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Pan-fried fish with tahini-onion sauce

A great dish should capture the essences and flavors of the region. In this case the flavors of the Arabian peninsula are showcased with sweet and hot paprika, the creaminess from tahini and the freshness of lemon juice.

This is a super simple dish to prepare, but the flavors are sublime and the dish is visually beautiful. The smoky spice from the paprika are unmistakably present, but subtle, and paired with the fresh moist fish, it is a dish that portrays elegance and luxury. This dish is both the showpiece on the table, but also will become a guest favorite quickly.

This is relatively new cookbook in my library. It is filled with contemporary Arab recipes, each one a delight, like this one. Each recipe has an introduction that precedes it explaining the origins of the dish and its history, something I really enjoy reading and a cuisine I have so much to learn about. It is a wonderful cookbook, one you will definitely see me cook from again.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, sliced thinly

Salt, to taste

1 cup tahini

3/4 cup water

3-4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon spicy paprika

1/2-1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon tomato paste

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, whipped smooth

2 lb fish fillets, red snapper, tilapia, sea bass, or your choice, skin-on

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon parsley, minced for garnish

1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted, to garnish

1 red chili, thinly sliced (optional)

Rub the fish fillets with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes in the fridge.

To make the sauce, in a saucepan heat the oil and add the onions and cook on a low flame. Stir the onions till very soft and translucent but not color, about 5-10 minutes.

Add the tahini, water, lemon juice, sweet and hot paprika, and tomato paste and stir in well to make a well incorporated sauce. Cook the sauce down for about 5 minutes on a low heat till the sauce is aromatic and the aroma of paprika is released. Taste and adjust salt and spice levels with chili powder. You want a sauce that has a hint of chili, do not make it super spicy.

Cool the sauce and incorporate the yogurt into the sauce. Set aside till needed.

NOTE: Once you add the yogurt, you can never boil the sauce, it will split. To warm, heat gently on a low stove, stirring almost continually, till warm to low hot. Take off the stove.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the fish fillets starting with the skin side down. Push the edges of the fillet down with a spatula so they do not start curling up. Fry for 2-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Turn over and fry for 2-3 minutes till the bottom is cooked and the fish is flakey and moist. Do not over fry and dry out the fish.

To serve, gently heat the sauce. Spread out on a wide platter and add the fish fillets on top. Garnish with the pine nuts and parsley and add lemon wedges on the side. Serve immediately with Persian pilaf or bread.

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