Is it April Fool’s Day or just a coincidence? No, think again! We have agreed to offer you a fish dish this April. It’s interesting to mention that on April 1st, I celebrated my 34th birthday; I’m a real April fool 😉. It is therefore my pleasure to share with you my favorite fish recipe. An ultra-vitamin dish; our pesco-vegetarian recipe includes whole grain brown rice, fish, fried onions as well as nuts (cashews, filberts, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios or other).
This recipe will give you the benefit of whole grains (B vitamins), quercetin, zinc, selenium, vitamin D and the omegas. With such a wealth of nutrients, this is just what we need to keep our immunity afloat. In connection with longevity, it is important to emphasize that this type of dish is part of the Mediterranean diet; the diet with the most scientific support for its impact on longevity in health.
This recipe doesn’t have much historical mention; although for several years this compound rice (pilaf) has been a subsistence meal for Lebanese fishermen.
Nowadays, this succulent dish is very popular in many Middle Eastern homes. There are several versions, from their respective countries, using accessible seasonal fish, nuts and spices. Several Arabic countries, like Lebanon, are located on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, and therefore could dine from their catches. I must admit that you have to be of Lebanese origin or an Epicurean like me to cook this dish successfully. Have no fear, because I’ve made sure to simplify the recipe for you. Also, I thought about suggesting other proteins besides fish to suit different diets. As a cook, I am very happy to make you travel in flavor for the umpteenth time. Enjoy your meal everybody!
Suggested protein choices:
-4 to 6 thick fillets of white fish (cod, haddock, barramundi, sea bass, turbot or halibut)
– 1 block of firm tofu cut into thick slices with a can of well-rinsed and drained chickpeas
– 4 to 6 boneless chicken breasts or thighs cut into medium cubes
-1 cinnamon stick
– 1 to 3 green cardamom pods (optional)
– Ground allspice
– Ground cinnamon
– Ground musk
– Ground turmeric
– Salt and white or black pepper to taste
-2 cups of long-grain brown rice (Uncle Ben’s or other)
– 3 3/4 to 4 cups of fish stock or chicken broth
– Freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 to 3 lemons)
– 4 to 5 yellow onions, cut into thin slices
– 1 cup of unsalted mixed nuts (cashew, filberts, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts)
– Olive oil
– Parsley and/or mint for garnish (optional)
- First, you will need to choose the protein you would like to use, as the time to marinate each varies. In a small plastic container, put equal amounts of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric. Close the lid, then stir them vigorously. You have just prepared a simplified oriental spice blend that you will use throughout the recipe. Take the opportunity to squeeze your lemons, because they will soon be useful to you.
- If you choose the fish, it will be very important to marinate it for no more than an hour or it could fall apart or even disintegrate! To marinate your fish, in a glass dish or resealable bag, add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and your oriental blend (about 1/2 teaspoon). Then marinate in the fridge for no more than an hour (minimum 30 minutes). So, when you start to cook your rice; allow it to macerate.
- If you choose tofu with chickpeas; you don’t have to worry about the maceration time, and the more they marinate, the better they will be. Remember to rinse your chickpeas well before the operation. However, you will use a marinade in the same spirit as that of the fish; olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oriental spices (about 1/2 tablespoon). N.B. If you have the chance to marinate your tofu the day before, it is highly recommended, I assure you!
- If you choose the chicken, which in my opinion is the best replacement for fish due to the Lebanese flavors, you can marinate the latter for 1 to 4 hours without any worries. So, in a large resealable bag, place your chicken, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, your Arabic spices with a little plain yogurt, if you have any. Plain yogurt brings a touch of magic to the marinade, but the latter is optional.
- Cut the onions into thin slices, then take out a pan in which you will brown your nuts before cooking the onions. In your dry pan, brown the walnuts over medium heat until lightly roasted, then set aside. Then, add in little butter and olive oil, still over medium heat, then throw in the onions and let them caramelize without stirring them too much. It can take up to ten minutes or even fifteen sometimes. Once cooked, leave them in the pan, they will stay hot for a while, so we can reheat them later without them becoming too mushy.
- Towards the end of cooking the onions, take out a pot in which you can cook two cups of rice. Take note that the cooked rice will be doubled or even tripled in some cases. In the saucepan, put the brown rice, the fish stock, the cinnamon stick, the two cloves, the cardamom pods (if using), and salt and pepper to taste. Brown rice can take anywhere from thirty to forty minutes to cook in general, depending on the type. Using this, you can start cooking your protein halfway through cooking the rice, in another pan, so that everything is as hot as possible for the Sayadieh (Lebanese fish and rice) assembly.
- Now that all the elements of your recipe are ready. Please finely chop a quarter of a bunch of mint and parsley if you wish; it will be as garnish. This decorative touch is recommended, but optional. It will bring out the earthy colors of the dish. Reheat the onions over low heat, only if you feel they are completely cooled. Meanwhile, pull out an oval-shaped serving tray large enough for presentation.
- In your oblong presentation dish, as indicated in the previous step, you will arrange your food in the following order. First, you will place a generous layer of rice at the bottom of the dish. Second, you will gently place your cooked protein(s) in the middle of the rice. Third, make sure your onions aren’t overcooked, and then arrange them nicely over the protein(s). Finally, sprinkle with your carefully selected nuts, as well as mint and chopped fresh parsley.
To spoil yourself a little, a good glass of fruity white wine, but not too much, with some baklava for dessert will be the perfect complement to this work of art. Wishing an excellent tasting to you all!
- Chatzianagnostou K, Del Turco S, Pingitore A, Sabatino L, Vassalle C. The Mediterranean Lifestyle as a Non-Pharmacological and Natural Antioxidant for Healthy Aging. Antioxidants (Basel). 2015 Nov 12;4(4):719-36. doi: 10.3390/antiox4040719.
- Román GC, Jackson RE, Gadhia R, Román AN, Reis J. Mediterranean diet: The role of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids in fish; polyphenols in fruits, vegetables, cereals, coffee, tea, cacao and wine; probiotics and vitamins in prevention of stroke, age-related cognitive decline, and Alzheimer disease. Rev Neurol (Paris). 2019 Dec;175(10):724-741.