Jul 122013
 

salmon and potato casserole

It’s the middle of the Nine Days that culminate in the fast of Tisha B’Av. Discounting Shabbat meals and the fast itself, that’s six days of no meat or chicken. A week of meatless days on the Jewish calendar means lots of fish, like red mullet in chermoulah and grains. More vegetables than usual. More eggs in creative ways, and er, well, more fish.

Yesterday I was shopping in a hurry. The family was going to need dinner in about an hour, but I was in the middle of a project that needed all my attention. I didn’t want to spend lots of time chopping, stirring, and hovering obsessively over the stove as I usually do.

What, oh what would dinner be?

A package of salmon fillets caught my eye as I trundled past with my shopping cart – I snatched it up, thinking, salmon cooks quickly and everyone likes it.

Back home, a damp, chilly package of salmon fillets thawing out on the kitchen counter.  Me, suddenly empty of ideas, looking around the kitchen. My cookware said: put it in a clay pot and let the oven do the work.

My pots and pans often provide the answer to What’s For Dinner. There’s more on my theory of Pot/Food-Vision Syndrome on this post. Which happens to be a recipe for spicy brown beans, also appropriate for the Nine Days.

But back to dinner, and the salmon. I couldn’t cook the salmon just bare. There had to be potatoes and onions and herbs and tomatoes, at least. And plenty of lemon. So this is what I did.

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Jul 152010
 

Black Beans

Observant Jews refrain from meat and wine for the first nine days of the month of Av, culminating in the fast of  Tisha B’Av – a catastrophic date in the Jewish calendar. This year, the Nine Days began on Sunday evening, July 11th. Tisha B’Av will start on the evening of Monday, July 19th.

Several readers have written me privately, asking for vegetarian recipes appropriate for these days. (On Shabbat we are allowed to rejoice and eat meat and drink wine.)  So for these last five or so days of mourning, here are four simple meatless ideas. Adjust servings to the size of your family, of course.

Vegetable-Stuffed Potatoes. Serves 4.  Bake 4 potatoes. While they’re baking, steam a small head of broccoli or cauliflower. When the potatoes are cooked through, allow them to cool, then split them in half and remove the flesh. Leave the jackets intact. Mash the cooked potato flesh with cream cheese and plenty of chopped chives; add the chopped, steamed vegetable and salt/pepper/paprika to taste.  Stuff this mixture back into the potato jackets, piling it high. Dot the surface of the potatoes with butter, sparingly. Put the stuffed potatoes back in the oven for 15 minutes to re-heat; serve.

Salmon In Foil. Serves  4. Make a foil square big enough for 4 salmon fillets or steaks to sit on without crowding. Drizzle olive oil over the foil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the salmon on the foil. Squeeze a lemon over the fish. Dust it with salt, pepper, and cumin. Slice a tomato thickly and place the slices on top of the fish. Salt the tomato slices lightly. Chop a good handful of parsley, chives, or cilantro, and scatter the herbs over the fish. Drizzle all with olive oil.

Place another foil square over the fish and pinch all sides of both squares together, creating a package. Bake the fish at 350°F – 180°C for 30 minutes. Remove the package from the oven – carefully, it might leak hot juices. Allow the fish to sit for 10 minutes before opening the package and serving.

Curried Lentils, Rice, and Spicy Yogurt Sauce. Serves 6. Rinse 1 cup of rice and cook it up your favorite way. Cook 1 cup lentils in salted water, with 1 bay leaf and 1 peeled garlic clove, for 30 minutes or until they’re cooked through but still firm. (Cook them covered.) Drain them, but reserve any cooking water. Remove the bay leaf and cooked garlic clove.

In a skillet, fry 1 medium chopped onion, one small bell pepper and one medium chopped carrot in olive oil or butter. When the vegetables are tender, add 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1- 1/2  teaspoon curry powder, and salt/pepper to taste. Stir and cook a few minutes; long enough for the vegetables to take on the seasonings. Add the lentils to the skillet. Stir and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of the cooking water if the dish seems dry.

In a bowl, mix unflavored white yogurt with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, 1 small crushed clove of garlic, 1 small, finely chopped cucumber, and salt to taste.

Serve the lentils and rice separately, with hard-boiled eggs and the yogurt sauce on the side.

Black Beans. Follow this link to black beans. Serve them with rice, couscous, or bulgur.

May we soon know Tisha B’Av as a day of rejoicing.

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