There was a time when finding a fish “with a head” in a supermarket in the US (say, in California where I used to live or in Texas) was not an easy task. Times have changed and now fish with their heads still on or even fish live in giant aquariums are available in supermarkets or fish markets. I have found that my best bet is to seek out giant Chinese or Asian supermarkets, as they have a huge seafood section and keep a number of fish live in aquariums to be retrieved and cleaned on demand.
I used a type of fish found in the Mediterranean for this recipe, but any fish would do, such as a grouper or snapper. This is a very easy dish and is inspired by the Arabian Gulf cuisine. To save time, I used date paste which is available in all Middle-Eastern groceries. You can also make it with fish fillets, by rubbing the fillet individually with the paste, adding the onions and sprinkling the almonds as a garnish when serving.
INGREDIENTS: 4 servings
- 1 3-pound snapper or grouper or other white-fleshed fish
- 1 pound onions, sliced into rings
- 1/2 cup oil or clarified butter or ghee
- 1/2 pound date paste (to make it, see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- salt, pepper, to taste
- 1 cup almonds
- Clean the fish and dry with kitchen towels; sprinkle with spices on both sides and in the cavity. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and fry the onion slices for 45 minutes until brown.
2. Stuff the fish cavity with about half the date paste; add a layer of sliced onions; rub the remaining date paste on the outside of the fish and garnish with toasted almonds. Bake the fish in a 350F oven till cooked, about 30 minutes. Serve.
NOTE: To make date paste, pit the dates and place in a saucepan; add 3/4 cup of water (or orange juice) and bring to a simmer; stir from time to time and let the mixture get thicker and softer. Transfer to a processor and purée (or use an immersion blender).
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