Using the Harvest: Cod Couscous and Onion T’faya with Persimmons
Persimmons… I truly love them (see Amagaki post earlier in November). The stacks are dwindling at stores. I noticed Amagakis are no more at Whole Foods Market in Sacramento. So I picked up the workhorse, a Fuyu, and decided to incorporate it into a recipe I’d been wanting to try.
Let’s go to Morocco, where you hear about dishes such as Tagine, B’stilla (Bisteeya), Harira, Kefta and where couscous is a staple. But I’d not heard of T’faya, which is the dish I made.
T’fayas (T’faias) are known for having a hint of sweetness and thick, rich, wonderfully spiced sauce. The main ingredients are usually onions, cinnamon and raisins. Also called Chicken Couscous or Chicken T’faya, I made it with white fish and the spice Raz el Hanout.
Raz (Ras) el hanout (means “head of the shop”) is a spice mixture combining from 10 to 100 different spices. It differs from vendor to vendor and none are exactly the same. Spices used in any combination can be cinnamon, cumin, ginger, pepper, chili, cayenne, anise, cardamom, tumeric, ajowan seed, lavender, galanga and more. I’ve played with raz a bit and find it suited for stewing, braising or roasting.
Onward to the dish! It was really yummy, my husband gave it an “AFP”.
As with many Indian dishes, you first cook the spice in oil (I’ve been using ghee lately) until it foams and becomes aromatic. Add the onions and cook (kind of like you were caramelizing them). Than add a dried fruit (I added chopped prunes versus raisins) and a little sugar (I used agave nectar). I added a little chicken stock during this process because it was getting dry. You then add more stock (fish, vegetable or chicken would work). The mixture seemed too watery for my liking so I added more than the recipe called for and reduced it a bit.
Then cozy the fish in, cover and cook until the fish is done.
And my persimmon… peeled and diced it nicely, then sprinkled it with cinnamon and let it sit. This became the garnish. Israeli couscous was all I had but it worked great. We ended up flaking the fish and mixing it all together to meld the flavors (except the garlic braised red kale which had nothing to do with the dish but I needed to use it up).
The persimmon added a splendid flavor that melded wonderfully with the underlying sweetness of the spices, prunes and sugars from the onions. It took the dish to the next level so grab a Fuyu before the harvest is gone and let me know if you agree!
Cod Couscous with Onion T’faya and Persimmons
1/3 cup dried prunes (or raisins)
3 tablespoons ghee, extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 tablespoon raz el hanout
1 1/2 cup yellow onions, sliced thin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar (or sugar)
1 1/4 cups stock (fish, chicken or vegetable)
About 1 pound white fish, such as cod, skinned
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 rips Fuyu persimmon
A few pinches of cinnamon
Israeli or regular couscous, cooked
Heat ghee or oil in a 10 to 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add ras el hanout and cook until it becomes aromatic and begins to bubble. Stir in the onions, sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt, turn heat down to medium-low and cook until onions become limpy and light brown (from 15 to 20 minutes). You may need to add a little stock if the mixture begins to stick during this process.
Add the agave nectar or sugar and prunes; stir to incorporate. Add the stock and turn the heat to medium. Cook to reduce the stock by about 1/4 (about 5 to 8 minutes).
Place the fish on top of the mixture, then push it down so the stock and onion mixture slightly cover the fish. Cover and cook for about 6 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. (This is a good time to cook your couscous.) Check the fish. It should be flaky. You might want to uncover half way through the cooking so the stock reduces a bit more and the sauce gets a little thicker.
Take off the heat and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over couscous, sprinkle with almonds, garnish with a heaping teaspoon of persimmon mixture and enjoy immediately.
To prepare the persimmon:
Peel then dice into cubes about 1/3-inch in diameter. Sprinkle with a few pinches of cinnamon and set aside until needed.
Servings: 2 with leftovers (unless you are really hungry!)
Wine: We had this dish with a 2006 Meyer Fonne Pinot Blanc from Alsace. It had just a hint of residual sugar. The pairing was amazing. I purchased this wine at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in Berkeley.