White fish fillets with herbs, tomato sauce and arak

August 12, 2010  •  Category:


One of the people that I really enjoy spending time with is Um Elias (Mother of Elias, her first born son, a traditional way to call mothers here). She is a true mountain girl, a mother to six grown children, a grandmother of five and  still youthful-looking; every morning she  drinks her Turkish coffee  and  wearing her sneakers and a cap, spends her days in the fields. At dusk, she comes home, fixes herself a glass of arak (made by her), eats her dinner with her husband and goes to bed.

We  had coffee  and she  told me that in 1982, when the country was invaded, she and her family had to flee their village for fear of  being slaughtered; they took refuge in our village  of Deir el-Qamar and soon the town itself was under a blockade. There was no food, no money, nothing!!!! She was scrambling to feed  her family on a few kilos of rice and wheat handed by the Red Cross; she wanted to drink coffee badly, but there was none to be found; so she took acorns balloot, roasted it and ground  it with a cardamom pod or two. She said everybody else was using  chick peas hummos as a coffee substitute and would get inflated bellies and terrible flatulence, but not her! Her acorns kept her going without any side effects!

I sat down with Um Elias for two solid hours and could have stayed with her the whole day, but lunch had to be made in a hurry!

This dish can be prepared easily and quickly and packs a lot of flavor. Just grab  a bag of white fish fillets, some fresh cilantro and parsley and tomatoes and a chili pepper. Serve with potatoes or rice.


  • 1 pound of white fish fillets, cut in serving size
  • 3 or 4 tomatoes, cut in dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, mashed in a bit of salt
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander, leaves chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of dried coriander
  • a few tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • olive oil, as needed
  • arak, as needed
  • 1 red chili pepper, cut in dice or 1 teaspoon of hot pepper paste
  • flour or cornmeal or fine semolina, as needed
  • salt, pepper, to taste


  1. Dab the fillets in flour and fry lightly in oil for a couple of minutes
  2. Heat the olive oil and add the mashed garlic and herbs, stirring till the herbs are wilted for one minute. Add the dried coriander, tomatoes, chili pepper or paste  and cook for a few minutes; add the fish fillets, a splash of arak  and simmer for a few minutes until the fillets flake easily and are cooked. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Anahid’s Gourmet cookbook.


17 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:




  2. Sasa says:

    It really amazes me how coffee is so big in people’s lives (coming from a tea culture). My boyfriend’s Oma said they made “coffee” from potatoes during the war in Austria!

  3. Suman Singh says:

    love that tomato sauce..delish…

  4. lucy says:

    j love this recipe and j’m very happy to know ather culinary traditions.bye

  5. Faith says:

    What an amazing, creative woman! I bet the acorn drink she made was delicious! The fish looks delicious too.

  6. Velva says:

    The first thought that Occurred to me when I saw the photo of the white fish fillets was that dish was packing a lot flavor and then I read your words and they were the same. How funny. The next thought was the courage and endurance of the human spirit. I love spending time with people like Um Elias what they can share and teach would take most a lifetime.

    As always, awesome post.

  7. elra says:

    What is Arak made from? We have Arak in Bali as well, I am just wondering if it the same thing. In Bali, arak made from fermented palm. Anyway, this fish look yummy!

  8. Dana says:

    What a gorgeous red that meal is! So vibrant.

    It’s important to have people like that in your life, you’re lucky to have her. 🙂

  9. Sushma Mallya says:

    Very tempting and delicious…

  10. Nathalie says:

    J’adore le poisson dans tous les états !! Alors ta recette me plaît beaucoup !!

  11. Katerina says:

    There are so many people with interesting stories around us and the only thing we have to do is to sit and listen to them. This is such an easy and tasty fish recipe.

  12. Sue Stephens says:

    In France and Italy they used to use ground chestnuts instead of acorns!

  13. 5 Star Foodie says:

    A super delicious preparation for white fish!

  14. Lentil Breakdown says:

    Yum. That’s a similar prep to a Snapper Veracruz I used to make a lot. Very easy and delicious. I like the sound of that coriander. How do you make coffee from garbanzos? I would like to know that!

  15. FOODESSA says:

    I can only wonder if I will hold that much wisdom one day ?

    Great adaptable recipe for white fish which I make at least once a week.

    Flavourful wishes,

  16. Nader Khouri says:

    That’s funny. “Arak as needed.” I guess it depends on how your day was!

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