Fish Cigars for Rosh Hashana
Shared by Rinat Tzadok
Recipe Roots: Morocco > Hadera, Israel > Tel Aviv, Israel
Cook-in-residence Rinat Tzadok has a talent for updating traditional recipes with a modern touch. One of her favorite holiday dishes, crispy “cigars,” are a Moroccan classic. The appetizer is labor intensive, to be sure—dough is stuffed with meat, rolled into skinny “cigars,” then deep-fried. “It’s a holiday dish, but it’s work, you know?” says Rinat. “It’s not easy to make.” Doing it the old-school way requires a meat grinder for milling spices, and pre-cooking the meat before it’s rolled into the pastry. Recently, Rinat created a delicious alternative. The idea came to her this summer, when she was craving lighter food and wanted to spend less time over the stove. Enter the fish cigar. The filling is a mixture of hand-chopped snapper and grouper mixed with hot peppers, garlic, cilantro and tomatoes (quite like her ceviche). Since the fish cooks when the cigars are fried, there’s no need to cook the filling separately. Ready-made dough helps, too. “In Israel you can find women who made brik the old way,” says Rinat of the pastry itself, which is similar to phyllo, but sturdier and sold in rounds instead of sheets. “You have to order two days before and they make for you.” (Stateside, you’re more likely to find brik in the frozen section of a Middle Eastern or international food market.) Finally, it’s served hot out of the fryer with a tahini or yogurt dipping sauce. Rinat and her family eat cigars not only on Rosh Hashana, but on other important holidays, too. “It’s really good,” she says. “You start to make it and after five minutes, you don’t have it because people love it.”
Moroccan Fish Cigars
Makes: 20 cigars
Time: 75 minutes
1 lb. firm, skinless, mild white fish such as red snapper, grouper, or striped bass chopped into small cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 tomato, finely diced
½ small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 package Brik dough (Rinat recommends the brand Les Fines Pate du Soleil)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
1. Place the fish, garlic, red onion, tomato, jalapeño, cilantro, olive oil, and pepper in a large bowl and mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate mixture for 20-30 minutes
2. While the mixture sits, make the glue for the cigars by mixing together 3 tablespoons of flour with a ½ cup water in a small bowl.
3. Remove mixture from fridge and add salt. Mix to combine and taste for seasoning.
4. For assembly: Cut the brik of dough in half so that you have two equal semicircles. With the flat side of one half of the dough facing you, brush the edges of the semicircle with the flour and water glue mixture. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling along the bottom edge of the brik in a 3 inch long and ½ inch wide line. Fold in the left side, then the right side and roll into cigar shape. Repeat with remaining filling and brik.
5. Pour a ¼ inch of the oil into a heavy bottomed saute pan and heat over medium high heat. Working in batches of 5-6, add the cigars and fry for 2-3 minutes per side, turning halfway through, until golden brown on all sides.
6. Place finished cigars on a plate lined with paper towels.
7. Serve immediately. Rinat recommends serving the cigars with tahini and grated tomato.