My Chraimi is excerpted from my latest cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen. Israelis affectionately call this dish chraimi, insisting that’s what Moroccans call it. (Hello! Never heard of the word Chraimi in Morocco! Something probably got lost, or should I say gained, in translation . . .) We just called it cooked fish in fresh tomato sauce. Chraimi is precisely the kind of dish where preserved lemon makes all the difference: You should always have them on hand, as they are heavenly in this and many other dishes. Please note the dish has no added salt as the preserved lemon is enough to season it. No preserved lemon? Substitute 1 thinly sliced lemon, and be prepared for a Chraimi 90 percent as good.
Any thick firm fish will be suitable for Chraimi. My daughter Bella asked me to make sure I don’t forget to recommend using diced mock shrimp too, her favorite.
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, diced small
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- Good pinch ground cloves
- 3 bay leaves, or ½ teaspoon ground
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch flat parsley
- 1 small bunch cilantro
- ½ preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed (settle for 1 lemon, skin and all, sliced thin)
- 1 red pepper, sliced thin lengthwise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 serving pieces salmon fillet, or any other thick fish (or 2 pounds mock shrimp, cut across in thirds)
In a large wide-bottom pot, bring the water, oil, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, cloves, bay leaves, and paprika to a boil. Meanwhile, coarsely grind the garlic, parsley, cilantro, and preserved lemon in a food processor using the pulse button. Add the ground mixture to the pot and stir. Add the red pepper and the fish (or the fishballs if you are making fishballs), and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature to medium and cook covered for 20 minutes. Transfer the fish onto a platter with a slotted spoon. check the cooking liquids in the pot: If they are too thin, reduce them at high temperature until thickened. Pour the sauce over the fish. Serve hot or at room temperature, making sure you top each serving with the sauce. Makes 8 servings.
Variations: Moroccan Fishballs in Tomato Sauce.
You can easily adapt Chraimi to Moroccan Fishballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce, which is no less popular than the Mother Chraimi Recipe. I hope you don't use Gefilte fish in a desire to save time on grinding the fish (I have often seen it done, to great disadvantage, hence the friendly warning). Using this gimmick will save you a negligible amount of time, while lots of good flavor will be lost. Grinding fish in a food processor is a snap and takes a minute or two, and you will end up with a far superior dish. Use all ingredients and instructions just as directed, but first grind 2 pounds of fish (salmon, tilapia, cod, any nice you find at the market, no need to get anything expensive) with 2 eggs, a little oil, salt and pepper, to a smooth paste: that's the whole story! Wait for the mixture to come to a boil, shape balls and throw them in the pot. Process with the recipe just as directed.