Fennel Gefilte Fish

April 20, 2009

3 bulbs and stems of fennel

2 onions
4 carrots
2 pounds fish scraps including bones
2 tablespoons peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

2 pounds white fish
1 cup matzo meal

Break down the fennel into three: the soft leafy herby part, the good parts of the bulbs, and the leftovers ( the ends of the bulbs and the stalks).

Put the leftover fennel stuff in a big stock pot with the rest of the stock ingredients. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 40 minutes and strain.

Fine dice the good parts of the fennel bulbs.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Heat up a big saute pan dry. Use it to toast the 1 tsp fennel seeds. When they are fragrant and have slightly turned color, turn them out onto a piece of paper to cool.

Return the saute pan to the heat and oil it up. Saute the fine-diced fennel with a little salt until it is totally soft and a bit caramelized, 12-14 minutes. When they are soft, put them in the food processor with the metal blade. Process until they are almost mush. Reserve in a big bowl.

Process the fish a couple of pieces at a time. I used tilapia and sole. (It’s good to have at least some of the fish be very soft, like the sole.) Add to the bowl with the sauteed fennel.

Mince very finely the soft herby frond of the fennel and add to the fish.

Put a very small pot with water on to boil.

Put the cooled toasted fennel seeds in a spice grinder or extra pepper grinder. Use the paper as a little funnel. Grind it up and add to the fish – don’t use it all. Salt and pepper the fish and add in the matzo meal. Mix well.

To taste, take a tiny bit of the fish and poach it quickly in the little pot of water. Adjust salt, pepper and fennel. If it’s too intense, add more matzo meal.

Cut up baking parchment into pieces that are, oh, 6″x 8″. You will need about 20. Also get out a big baking pan that is at least 2″ deep.

To shape the fish, use a soup spoon to put about 1/4 cup of the fish almost at one end of a piece of parchment. Fold up the sides and then roll up the long way. Put it in the baking pan. Continue with the rest of the fish. When you have all the fish wrapped up, carry the baking pan so that you are close to the oven. Pour the fish stock into the pan to cover the gefilte fish. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Take it out and let cool to room temp then refrigerate.


Rainy Week Lentil Stew

February 14, 2009

Rainy week lentil stew.

Sautee round:

3 onions
3 stalks celery
6 cloves garlic
lots of fresh rosemary
As you break each thing down, add it to the saute in big pressure cooker with salt

Cooking round:

1/2 c white wine
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 large carrots, grated
3 cups brown lentils
8 cups hot water
Add and cook at high pressure for 7 minutes

Finish with:
Salt and pepper
olive oil
2 pears, finely diced

Serve with rice or biscuits, and a little winter cabbage salad. The recipe makes a lot – this was enough for us plus a guest, two lunches for next week and enough for the freezer for another round later.

This is exactly what I have been craving and I didn’t even know it. It’s been raining here most days for the last two weeks. I have not been cooking very much because I have been so wiped out by work. I’ve re-heated stuff from the freezer and made a lot of old-standby things. Today after shul I could let my mind wander a little as B did his homework and I could feel how much I wanted lentils and biscuits. The saute round was pretty standard, but when it came time for the cooking round I looked in my spice cabinet and the cinnamon seemed like the right thing to work in. There’s not a lot of it and you can’t really taste it in the final dish, but it’s there.

The true departure for me here is the finish. My typical finish is sharp and bright: lemon juice, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, ginger. This time I added the seasonings and oil and tasted – and it wanted roundness, not bright. E loves pears and we had a lot of them. I used two Comice pears, but I think you could use Anjou, Bartlett or any other softish pear. As I was dicing it up, I remembered a Mollie Katzen recipe for red lentil soup with dried apricots – also fruit with lentils.