Moroccan Fish Smothered In Olives

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We're following up on last week's Morrocan Chicken recipe in which I promised to get back to you after I made it with fish in place of chicken.  I'm happy to report that as good as that chicken was, the fish version was just as good, if not maybe a bit better even.  I know you can't even tell that there's fish under all of the sauce and olives, so you will have to take my word for it... there's a beautifully fresh piece of lingcod resting peacefully on that pillowy soft bed of couscous.  Oh yeah.

Shortly after I posted the recipe last week, I headed down to my favorite fish place...

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... and bought up some beautiful lingcod.  We love how moist and meaty lingcod is, but just about any piece of your favorite fish will do.  Well, with one caveat... I'm just not sure salmon would be a perfect choice here.  For some reason I can't quite imagine the flavors together. I could be wrong.  Let me know if you try it.  In any case, if you're up for subbing in some fish with this beautiful sauce, here's the recipe...

Moroccan Fish Smothered in Olives

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe Adapted from the NY Times

This is the seafood version of our Moroccan Chicken Smothered in Olives.  I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite between the two, but it's possible that the fish may have won by just a bit.  Amazingly delicious.  Use a meaty white fish here such as cod, halibut or lingcod.  If you choose a thinner filet such as snapper or tilapia, just reduce the cooking times a bit.

Serves 4

4  6-7 ounce fish filets (see headnote)
1 large or 2 small onions, peeled, halved and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, seafood stock or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Harissa paste (or more if using mild Harissa)
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
11 ounces pitted green olives in brine, drained (I used a combination of kalamatas and Manzanillas)
Serve over couscous

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, salt and the cloves.  Stir to blend well and set aside.

In a large-ish saute pan or skillet, saute onion slices in 2 tablespoons olive oil till soft and cooked down by about half (about 10-15 minutes).  Add the garlic and the spices.  Saute for a couple of minutes or until the spices are fragrant, and then add the fish.  Turn to coat with the spices.  Add 3/4 cup of the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, turning once.  

Combine the remaining 1 cup chicken broth with the harissa and yogurt and add to the pan.  Stir to incorporate and add more broth, if too thick or more yogurt if too thin.  Taste for salt and spice.  Scatter the olives over the sauce and then simmer partially covered for 5-6 more minutes.  The fish is done when it begins to flake and the center is no longer translucent.  Be careful not to overcook it!

To serve, sprinkle with a little more cilantro and serve over couscous.  We also like to serve it with a little dollop of yogurt on the side.

Moroccan Chicken Smothered in Olives

We're back in residence at the Circle B Kitchen West, enjoying gorgeously sunny 72-degree weather and doing fall as only the California Central Coast can do.  To be honest, it was a little difficult to leave the fall weather that was beginning to turn the cottonwoods and maples those lovely yellows, reds and oranges that color our life there this time of year.  But for the next few weeks we'll be quite content to squish our toes in the sand and enjoy the bounty of late-summer produce still in abundance here.  It goes without saying that there will be also be plenty of uber-fresh seafood to be grilled.

I can find no easy segue into talking to you about this beautiful moroccan chicken dish that I made several times before we left home, except to say that when I was thinking about posting it this week, it dawned on me how incredible it would be with fresh sea bass or swordfish or halibut or lingcod.  Even tilapia or red snapper.  It was amazingly delicious with chicken but now I'm all about making it with some of the local fish here. 

I've become so enamored of the beautiful flavors of Moroccan cuisine, which tends toward fragrant herbs and spices which play against pungent preserved lemons, spicy peppers, and in this dish, lots of briny olives.  It might be hard to get your hands on authentic Moroccan olives, which are most often oil-cured and quite salty, so use whatever olives you love, a nice mix of black and green, as long as they're not your garden variety black olives from the can.  Those won't really do at all.  I used some meaty kalamatas and some herb-marinated Sicilian green olives. 

This recipe comes to us from the good folks at the NY Times, and surprisingly, it needed quite a bit of help to fulfill its destiny as a luscious Moroccan dish.  I was happy to set things to right and have explained just how I did that in the recipe headnote.  And I promise to let you know how this fares as a fish dish very soon.  In the meantime, here's the recipe....

Moroccan Chicken Smothered in Olives

 

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from NY Times Cooking

There were many complaints in the comments section of the Times about the sauce for this dish being too watery and rather flavorless.  This is my version in which I reduced the amount of chicken broth and to that added yogurt and Harissa paste which is a deliciously spicy Moroccan red pepper paste.  I also added some traditional Moroccan spices such as cinnamon, cloves and coriander.  The resulting sauce was gorgeously flavorful with the perfect consistency. Harissa comes in both spicy and mild versions.  I like to use the mild version so that I can add more without things getting overly spicy.  

Serves 4

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 large or 2 small onions, peeled, halved and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon Harissa paste (or more if using mild Harissa)
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
11 ounces pitted green olives in brine, drained (I used a combination of kalamatas and Manzanillas)
Serve over couscous

In a small bowl, combine the ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, salt and the cloves.  Stir to blend well and set aside.

In a large-ish saute pan or skillet, saute onion slices in 2 tablespoons olive oil till soft and cooked down by about half (about 10-15 minutes).  Add the garlic and the spices.  Saute for a couple of minutes or until the spices are fragrant, and then add the chicken.  Turn to coat with the spices.  Add 3/4 cup of the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, turning once.  

Combine the remaining 1 cup chicken broth with the harissa and yogurt and add to the pan.  Stir to incorporate and add more broth, if too thick or more yogurt if too thin.  Taste for salt and spice.  Scatter the olives over the sauce and then simmer partially covered for 10 minutes.  

To serve, sprinkle with a little more cilantro and serve over couscous.  We also like to serve it with a little dollop of yogurt on the side.

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

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I'm well aware that an Apple Cider Doughnut Cake pretty much speaks for itself, and anything I might say here would probably be superfluous.  But I've never been one to miss an opportunity to wax poetic about a cake as wondrous as this one, so on I go.  Bear with me.

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The cake itself (thank you, Serious Eats!) begins with those iconic fall flavors that remind us so happily of everything good about this time of year...apples, cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts is a flavor in my world.  And you'll get what I mean after your first bite of this cake (hint... it's the nutmeg!).

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Yes, it's the nutmeg, but it's also the texture of this cake.  If you're a fan of cake doughnuts, you must applaud the genius of the folks at Serious Eats who so remarkably captured that experience in cake form.  Simply brilliant.

Our cake is going to be bundted, that is to say baked in a bundt pan, and then upended after which copious amounts of cinnamon sugar will be applied to its exterior.  Although, to be honest, copious amounts of that cinnamon sugar will end up on the baking sheet below, because it's pretty much against the laws of science and physics to ask these minuscule grains to adhere to a vertical surface.  Gravity will win out, I tell you.  But do not give in to science.  Keep at it.  I even had the nerve to spray the sides with a little nonstick cooking spray (don't tell anyone, geez) which actually did provide a little adherence assistance.  You will get enough on, believe me, and what doesn't make it, can be saved to sprinkle over that slice on your plate.

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That pretty much sums it up, I guess...apples, cinnamon sugar, doughnuts, cider, cake.  Go and get your fall on.  Here's the recipe...

Apple Cider Doughnut Cake

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

Click here for a printable recipe

If you close your eyes as you take a bite of this cake, you might easily convince yourself that you're eating a doughnut.  A very luscious apple cider doughnut.  It's a brilliant recipe, thank you, Serious Eats, but one that I found needed a few tweaks, which  I have noted in the recipe.  If you don't have mace in your spice cabinet, just double the nutmeg.  I doubled the nutmeg anyway and ended up putting in way more than 1/2 teaspoon (1/4 teaspoon is not nearly enough, and oh, please use fresh grated).  That's what cues your tastebuds that you might be eating a doughnut!  And one more thing, there was much discussion on the Serious Eats website about the cooking time for this cake.  Mine was done at exactly 35 minutes, but many on the site said their cake needed a full 50 minutes.  Ovens are so fickle.

For the Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces), peeled, cored, and roughly chopped (I used 1 1/2 medium-
            sized ones)
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature                              
2 1/2 cups (about 12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used more; freshly grated is best)
1/4 teaspoon ground mace (see headnote)
3/4 cup (about 5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating

6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease Bundt pan with a little softened butter (I sprayed with nonstick cooking spray).

2. In medium saucepan, bring chopped apple and cider to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until most of the cider has been absorbed and apples are easily smashed with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes. (Cooking this down another 5-8 minutes will intensify the apple flavors in the cake).  Remove pan from heat, cool 5 minutes, then pulse in food processor until pureed. (I used a hand blender, but you could just as easily mash them with a fork).  Measure out 1 1/4 cups apple mixture and stir in milk; set aside. (you can reduce the leftover apple mixture even more and drizzle it over your slice of cake...yummy)

3. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and mace; set aside.

4. In large bowl, beat 1/2 cup softened butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

5. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with apple mixture, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture just until combined, about 20 seconds. Add vanilla and beat once more, just to combine, about 10 seconds.

6. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean, rotating cake halfway through baking, 35 to 45 minutes. (mine was done at exactly 35 minutes and I confess to not rotating the pan.  My bad, but it cooked perfectly).  Transfer cake to cooling rack set inside baking sheet and cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert directly onto cooling rack.

7. For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating: Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle warm cake with cinnamon sugar, using fingers to rub it onto sides.

8. Cool cake completely, about 1 hour.

Olive-Parmesan Pizza Rolls

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These little puppies have swiftly become one of our very favorite appetizer kind of munchy bites.   They're fun to eat, easy to throw together and super delicious, which automatically qualifies them for rock star status in these parts.  What we're talking about here is pizza dough stuffed with olive tapenade and parmesan cheese, rolled up and baked until golden, soft and ever so tasty.  And if you're not all that keen on working with pizza dough, you could easily sub it out for some puff pastry.

Of course, there are very few things made with pizza dough that we don't love, but these really are sort of special.  And if you use store-bought pizza dough and a jar of already made olive tapenade, you can have these in the oven and baking in about the time it takes to open that bottle of wine you're going to want to sip on between bites.  Of course, you can also sip on the wine while you're making them; all the better, I say.    

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So basically, you're just going to roll out your pizza dough into a rectangular-ish shape and then spread some olive tapenade over that.  Sprinkle with some grated parmesan cheese and then roll it up...

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thusly, and then slice it.  Place your slices on a baking sheet...

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... and then bake them until they look like this...

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Only yours will probably look better than mine.  The trick is to eat them while they're still warm for optimal flavor and enjoyment.  They reheat easily in a low oven (around 300 degrees).

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There's really not much else one can say about fresh, warm pizza rolls.  Except that they'd be awesome with a bowl of soup or a salad or as an appetizer.  Of course, they're particularly happy when paired with your favorite glass of vino.  Here's the recipe...

Olive Parmesan Pizza Rolls

If you aren't that keen on working with pizza dough, you could easily sub it out for some puff pastry.  If you opt for the puff pastry route, just use the whole cup of olive tapenade as the puff pastry sheets are larger than 8x12.  

Recipe adapted from Relish magazine

Click here for a printable recipe

Ingredients:
12 oz pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 cup olive tapenade (I used more), store bought or homemade (see recipe below)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Roll pizza dough out to about an 8 x 12-inch rectangle.  Spread the olive tapenade over dough, leaving 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle with cheese. 

Carefully roll up the dough, starting at long side. Cut in 1-inch slices. Place slices in prepared pan. Coat top with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

Olive Tapenade

Makes about 1 cup

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

1/2 cup pitted black olives, such as Niçoise or oil-cured olives (I used a combination of kalamata,               green olives and black olives
1 tablespoon drained caper
2 drained oil-packed anchovy fillets
3 medium cloves garlic
5 basil leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon loosely packed fresh oregano, marjoram, or thyme leaves1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh juice from 1 lemon
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, if needed

1. In a food processor combine olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, basil (if using), other herbs, and mustard in the work bowl and process, scraping down the sides, until a finely chopped paste forms. Process in lemon juice. With the processor running, drizzle in just enough olive oil to loosen to a spreadable paste, about 2 tablespoons. Season with salt and pepper only if needed.

Fresh Fig Upside-Down Cake

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This year's fig season is coming to a close, but they're still out there, and hopefully you can lay your hands on about a pound of them.  And quick.  Because if you love figs, you're going to want to get this cake made up in like a real hurry.  Oh my ever lovin goodness; simply delicious.  The recipe comes from Carla Hall of Top Chef fame, which she shared on The Chew recently.  I only made one change to her recipe which I will share with you in a bit.

But figs... maybe you've never cooked with figs or maybe you've never actually tasted a fig or maybe you're just not sure about this whole fig thing to begin with, but I assure you, figs are like candy disguised as fruit.  Figs and dates... two of nature's truly delectable confections.

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And because figs are so perfectly perfect, the only thing we're going to do to them is remove their little stem and slice them in half.

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Aren't figs beautiful?   I think it's time to start lobbying for a longer fig season.  Two months just doesn't cut it.  

But to make this extraordinary cake, you're going to start by melting some butter and brown sugar in a pan.  This is where Ms. Hall added orange juice and lemon juice to the pan and where I added Bourbon.  I'm sure this does not need explaining.

Once you've got your butter, sugar and Bourbon all melted and perfectly combined, that gets poured into a cake pan to sit while you slice your figs.  Then your figs get placed onto the sauce really tightly together so everyone gets real chummy in there.

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By now you've got your cake batter all made so you're going to spoon that over the figs very gently so the figs don't get moved around too very much.

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Then into the oven it goes for about 40 minutes and while it's cooking, that brown sugar sauce bubbles up around the edges and turns into caramel and magical things take place and it comes out looking sort of like this...

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which is admittedly a little weird, but it doesn't really matter what it looks like cuz it's going to be the bottom of our scrumptious cake.  But in case you're wondering, those edges are pure Bourbon-y, caramel-y cakey wondrousness.  And when we turn it over, it's going to look something like this...

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Heck yeah.  Those burnished caramel edges are simply divine with that moist cake, and in only a few minutes after your cake cools, it will look something like this...

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'Nuff sed.  Here's the recipe...

Fresh Fig Upside-Down Cake

Recipe adapted from Carla Hall

Click here for a printable recipe

2 sticks plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
2/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)
3 tablespoons of Bourbon
zest of 2 lemons
1 pound fresh figs (ends trimmed, cut in half)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs (room temperature)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
whipped cream and powdered sugar for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the brown sugar and the Bourbon and stir until everything is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.

Scrape this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange the cut figs flesh-side down very close together in an even layer on top of the brown sugar mixture in a circular pattern.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together the 2 sticks of butter with the granulated sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Then, stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture with a wooden spoon.

Using a large spoon, carefully dollop the batter over the figs in the cake pan. Transfer to the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let rest in the cake pan for about 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges and invert the cake onto a platter. Cool completely before serving.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar (totally optional and unnecessary, in my humble opinion).