Remaking a Moroccan Shabbat Fish Recipe
Recipe Roots: Emin T’Not, Morocco > Beer Sheva > Montreal > New York City
Shared by Kim Kushner
In 1961, when cookbook author Kim Kushner’s mother Judy was just seven-years-old, her parents told her and her sister they would travel to France to perform in a show with a group of children. They packed their bags and left their village in Morocco called Emin T’Not, which is so small it doesn’t appear on maps. The trip to France was a ruse — the girls were sent to Israel with a youth Aliyah movement. They lived there, on a moshav, for a year before their family was able to join them.
Nearly 60 years later, it is still “so clear how this shaped my mother,” Kim explains. She’s an exceptionally involved parent and grandparent and “She continues to tell us that she feels it’s because she did not have her parents around while she was growing up.” The experience also brought Judy and her eight siblings close to one another. In 1971, Judy followed one of her brothers to Montreal where she now lives and where Kim grew up.
Kim doesn’t know much about how her mother inherited or developed her repertoire of Moroccan recipes but they were part of Kim’s childhood along with some Ashkenazi dishes (likely inspired by her time in Montreal) as well. Shabbat dinners were a mashup. Matzo ball soup was followed by a slow-cooked moroccan fish with dried and fresh peppers, chickpeas, and carrots, and an accompaniment of Moroccan salads to be eaten with challah. The meat dishes that made up the main course changed, but the matzo balls and fish were constants.
It’s likely Judy learned the recipe for the fish from her mother Yemima. But, Kim adds that it’s a common recipe in Moroccan Jewish homes and she’s found a similar one in Saveurs de Mon Enfance, a now out of print Moroccan Jewish cookbook.
When Kim became a mother herself, she says: “I followed a lot of my mom’s cooking.” That included the Friday fish recipe, but her son didn’t like the whole chickpeas. She decided to toss them, along with the carrots, peppers, herbs, and lemon, into a food processor, forming a hearty sauce. The dish was a hit with her kids and is no longer a specialty reserved solely for Shabbat, but enjoyed during the week as well. It also features in her newest book I Heart Kosher.
As for her mother, Judy doesn’t mind the updates on her fish recipe, Kim explains. “Every time, she says: ‘You’ve surpassed me.’”
Kim Kushner’s Moroccan Shabbat Fish
Time: 45 minutes
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, cut into chunks
¼ of a lemon, skin on, seeds removed, cut into small chunks
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 skinless halibut fillets, about 6 oz. each
Extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a food processor, combine the carrots, bell pepper, lemon, and garlic. Process until chopped into small pieces. Add the herbs and chickpeas and pulse 1 or 2 times until all ingredients are chopped into tiny pieces, but not mushy.
2. In a large sauté pan, heat the light olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chickpea mixture and stir in the turmeric and paprika. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the mixture until bubbly, about 3 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Season the halibut with salt and pepper, and place the fish over the chickpea mixture. Drizzle the halibut with extra-virgin olive oil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and spoon some of the sauce and chickpea mixture over the fish before serving.
Make-Ahead: The chickpea mixture can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge (do not freeze!).