Peshe kon Bahar
Region: Jewish Mediterranean, Greek
This fish recipe from the Jews of Thessaloniki (Salonika) in Greece has what seems like North African spicing. There's no mystery here, for after the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492 a large number of both communities immigrated to Morocco. Then in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was another large immigration of Moroccan Jews to the Ottoman Empire where they settled mostly in Turkish-controlled Salonika in Greece Macedonia, Istanbul, and Izmir. The name of this dish in Ladino, a medieval Judeo-Spanish language, is peshe kon bahar, which means fish with spices, the word bahar deriving from the Arabic word meaning the same or specifically "pepper." In Nicolas Stavroulakis's Cookbook of the Jews of Greece, from where this recipe is adapted, we are told that the Moroccan Jews established the Mograbi synagogue in Salonika and that typical Moroccan Jewish family names were all associated with this synagogue, names such as Nahama, Escrayos, Benrubi, Esformes, and Ovadia. He also tells us that the dish is not widely known among the Jews of Salonika, possibly because of its spicing.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 1:40 hours
1 1/2 pounds cod or haddock
5 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large tomatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Place the fish in a ceramic pan and marinate in the vinegar with 1/4 teaspoon salt for 1 hour.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook, stirring, half the tomatoes with half the garlic and half the parsley. After 1 minute, add the turmeric and stir. As the tomatoes begin to become soft in about 3 to 5 minutes, add the fish fillets and cook for 4 minutes.
3. Add the remaining tomatoes, garlic, and parsley and 2 tablespoons hot water, cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low and simmer until some of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine, paprika, saffron, and salt and pepper. Cover tightly again and simmer over very low heat, using a heat diffuser if necessary, until the fish begins to flake, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with any remaining sauce served on the side.