A bit of a Tahini Crush + Swordfish Experiment

It began rather innocently. 

With a dish I call Anarkali Rice cooked for a  dinner I hosted recently. If you are familiar with the story of Anarkali and Salim, an historical romance, you may suspect how this ends. You see, it was an Iranian style of pilaf/biriyani tossed abundantly with spices, saffron and, the pièce de résistance, sprinkled generously with pomegranate arils. The word for pomegranate in Urdu and Hindi is anar! Kali means bud or flower, which, is generously offered on all festive occasions. 

I served the rice with a side of tahini laced yogurt sauce. It was a combination, much like Salim and Anarkali, fraught with intense passion and rapport. Oh, that is where I may have slipped into an addiction. I have somehow become intensely infatuated with tahini!

I find myself lying awake in the middle of the night, plotting how I can involve said condiment into my lunch the next day. As soon as that is done, I find my mind wandering towards a similar goal with dinner. It gives me goosebumps when I think about how amazing it tastes with the most mundane of things. My current favorite snack is to slice up vegetables and stick them straight into the tahini jar and marveling at where this has been all this time!

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I must say, I have been rather productive (and prolific) in incorporating this intense, yet delicate sesame paste in more dishes than I would have thought of before this sudden obsession. Afore, my scope on the paste extended to as far and beyond as falafels and hummus. Really! I blush as I say this and cannot believe how daft I had been. But, there it is, the unpolished truth. 

If you have seen my Instagram lately, you would have caught a fair glimpse of it too. Yet, as I said, it has been a wonderful eye-opening experience. Have you ever tasted granola with a drizzle of it? No? Well, I have something for you coming up soon. Lately, I have been having a lot of simple sautés for my meals. It seems only too natural to finish with a quick drizzle of the sauce just as I would olive oil. Omelettes? I got you covered there. Soups? Oh yes, it's coming too. I mean really, name any dish category and I have dabbled with it in my 'explorations' over the last couple of weeks.

Ahem! So, I give you fair warning. You are going to see a fair few posts coming up with that particular ingredient sneaking in smoothly. By the time I finish, you'll wonder how one could even possibly consider having the dish without the sauce! ;-)

For the first installment, I am choosing a Fall inspired salad. I walked into Whole Foods and was told a story about them receiving and filleting whole swordfishes every day on premises. I don't know how true that story is but it made me give the fish a thought. It look really good and fresh. I normally do not choose swordfish, given a choice. In my mind, it has been relegated as the American fish steak choice. Meaning, if you don't eat meat but want a steak experience, you would get a swordfish steak. Who ever calls a fish slice, steak?!

Anyway, spying a rather prime looking filet, I picked it up with the thought that, well, if hell breaks loose, there is always tahini ;-) The piece I had picked up was good enough for two meals, which, was great as it let me experiment.

For the first, I cooked it as a steak and served on a  bed of greens, sautéed brussel sprouts and apples, topped with, you go it, tahini yogurt sauce and generous sprinkles of pomegranate arils. I had marinated the fish itself in a spice mix of aleppo pepper, z'atar, lemon juice and olive oil with a touch of salt. The sear was great, the flavors were lovely but I had underestimated the cooking time for such a thick slice. I had to slice it up and sauté again as I really did not like the raw taste.

For my second attempt then, I spent only a couple of hours thinking of flavors, presentation, styling and how to get the perfect dish. This time, the fish would be cubed and seared. I used the same marinade as it had been wonderful. This time though, I pickled the apples, overnight. That was a stroke! And, as for the tahini, I made a sauce with it, homemade pumpkin puree and yogurt kissed with some aleppo pepper, lemon juice and salt. The fish was seared on all sides, strategically placed, adorned by sautéed brussel sprouts and pickled apples.

This dish is a winner! You may wonder why the tahini. Well, let me tell you, it's the sauce that pulls everything together. The subtle spices on the fish are emboldened by their trusted cohort, the tahini. As for the sauce itself, without the sesame, it utterly lacks depth. When you pull together a forkful of fish, a sliver of the pickled apple, a piece of the sprout and drag it through the puree generously lapping it up into a bite, you will know what I mean. They just belong together and in no small measure is that to the credit of the behind-the-scenes role of the sesame paste.

And, thus, continues my adoration of the tahini.....

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Seared SwordFish Salad

with Pickled Apples + Tahini Pumpkin Puree

I made this dish for one and give you that recipe for proportion. It is easily scalable. The recipes for the puree and pickled apples, further below are for a larger quantity then you would need just for one serving. 

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1/4 lb fresh, firm sword fish filet

4 brussel sprouts, halved

3 T of tahini-pumpkin puree (recipe below)

7-8 slices pickled apples (recipe below)

a few slices of red onion

pomegranate arils for garnish

lemon juice

For the fish marinade:

1-1/2 tsp z'atar

3/4 tsp ground aleppo pepper

2 tsp olive oil

juice of half lemon

salt and pepper as needed

 

Start with dicing the sword fish into approximately 2 inch cubes.

Mix together the marinade ingredients and soak the fish cubes for atleast 10 minutes.

In a frying pan, sauté the brussel sprouts in oil, simply seasoning it with salt and pepper. When done, reserve.

Heat oil in a pan large enough to hold all the fish you are frying or make in batches. Do not overlap fish pieces.

When the oil is hot, arrange the fish in one layer and leave it on medium for 2 minutes. 

Turn the fish to sear on all sides, it will take about 5 minutes in all for each batch.

While the fish is cooking, arrange the salad starting with puree at the bottom and then layering with the remaining ingredients.

Place the hot fish cubes on top. Finish with a squirt of lemon juice and sprinkle of pomegranate arils.


Tahini Pumpkin Puree

This recipe makes enough for a 4 person salad of above. If you are making more or using less, it can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. Leftovers are great as a chip dip for appetizer or even sandwich spread!

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1/4 cup tahini sauce

1/2 cup homemade pumpkin puree (without any added spices)

1/2 cup greek yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

1 T aleppo pepper

salt as needed

Puree everything together to a cohesive paste.

I left mine, slightly coarse for texture but for a more restaurant style finish, make it a fine finish.


Pickled Apples

1 apple, cored, sliced thin

2 tsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt 

Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar and pour into the bottom of a small shallow dish.

Place the apple slices on top, overlapping as needed.

Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, turning it occasionally to let the vinegar infuse all the slices.


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