Before I talk about dinner, I want to share two tricks. I think I learned this first trick from Alton Brown on Good Eats, but I couldn't find the clip, so maybe it was my imagination. But it works! Have a head of wilted lettuce? Put it in a big bowl of cold water with a splash of vinegar. Poof! Magically, your lettuce can pass for fresh. (20 minute soak recommended.) And it will keep looking fresh in the fridge for a couple days. You don't have to worry about it turning back to its old wilty self as soon as the guests arrive. (I took pictures, but wilted lettuce isn't very appetizing, and would you really believe a before-and-after photo?)
The second trick is just a fancy way to cut a lemon. It won't help you get the juice out, but it makes a nice presentation.
Today I went to the city market (shuk) with my favorite shuk-buddy - A Mother in Israel. She showed me a great little Ethiopian spice shop. I'm sure you'll hear more about it as soon as I successfully cook some of the legumes I picked up there.
At the shuk I bought the usual fruits and veggies which were in season, including persimmons, a pomegranate, 1.5 kilos of honey, pistachios, and a chunk of winter squash that they call pumpkin. It looked like a giant butternut squash on the outside, but it wasn't as sweet. I'm going to use the leftovers to try something like Pumpkin Soup with Wine and Rosemary on Cooking Manager. I actually have some rosemary I need to use up. And of course, no trip to the shuk is complete without fish! My favorite is wild Norwegian Salmon, but I try to stick to thinks that more local, and less expensive. Today I picked up five whole Amnon, a kind of Tilapia native to the Sea of Galilee (The Kineret), but I think mine grew up on a fish farm in Northern Israel. Tilapia does well in close quarters like a fish farm, so it is considered a very responsible choice, ecologically, and there's no concern of mercury. Amnon is a favorite of my mother-in-law, but when she was visiting I was too scared of all those little bones to make it. These fish were a little bigger than what I tried the first time, but I think I still swallowed a tiny bone.
We had guests tonight; not the best time to experiment. I usually compensate with extra dishes in case they don't all work out. Usually there is something for everyone and everything is tasty, even if it's not what I expected. Today was an exception, with burnt Ethiopian chick peas reminiscent of my first popcorn attempt, to bland squash that didn't cook in time. Fortunately, there were enough successful dishes for a well balanced meal. The couscous was okay without the chick peas and my guests weren't scared off when face-to-face with a whole fish. I think the consensus was that it was fun to eat. Not exactly a quick bite, but nice for sitting and talking to your guests. I recommend having something like a trash bowl on or near the table in order to get some bones off your plate to make room for other food or further dissecting the fish.
I rinsed each fish thoroughly to make sure no scales were hanging around. Then I started to make a sort of homemade mayonnaise: One egg, a splash of vinegar, and mustard in a food processor, then drizzle in olive oil. Then I threw in a bunch of fresh dill (no stems), pulse, then half a red onion, pulse until well chopped. I smeared that all over the inside and outside of the fish. Baked in a preheated 205 C/400 F degree oven for 20-30 minutes covered, 5 minutes uncovered. I found it to be very delicate and slightly sweet.
I also made a version of the salad mentioned in my pomegranate post, except I used romaine and parsley instead of baby greens.