There’s a traditional Moroccan fish recipe that my mother, and the rest of the Moroccan Jews around the world, without exception, make every Friday for Shabat dinner. It’s called cooked fish. Basically, it’s a fish (such as Branzino or Sea bass) cut into pieces and braised with whole garlic cloves, red or green hot peppers, lots of cilantro, and paprika that was mixed with oil. Sometimes they would add carp roe to the dish, which I loved as a kid because they were crunchy. I’ve never met anyone, who grew up in a Moroccan home that doesn’t get nostalgic about this dish. If you ask them who makes it the best, they will all say my mother or grandmother.
I wanted to recreate this texture and flavors with amaranth. When I cooked Amaranth seeds their look and texture reminded me of that fish roe.
If you look in the fridge of any typical Jewish-Moroccan home you’ll find a jar filled with rust-color oil. It’s sweet and hot paprikas mixed with canola oil, which they use it in many of their dishes. This way the oil get infused with the sweet and smoky flavor of the paprika.
This is a great and satisfying main coarse. You can make it with quinoa or couscous instead of amaranth, but then if you do, make sure to decrease the cooking time.
Braised chickpeas with amaranth
- 1 cup amaranth seeds
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced widthwise
- 12 grape tomatoes, cut into halves or 2-4 medium tomatoes, diced
- 2 chiles de arbol or non-spicy chiles – for extra smoky flavor, toast them for a minute or two in a toaster oven or char them over the stove
- handful cilantro, washed carefully and chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric or fresh
- ½ cup of olive oil mixed with 1 tablespoon smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon hot paprika
- 2 cups cooked or jarred chickpeas
Put all the ingredients, except for the spices and chickpeas, in a wide pot or heavy skillet. Cover with filtered water (about 4 cups) and bring to a boil. Cook on high heat for ten minutes. Add the spices and reduce to a simmer, uncovered.
Simmer for 35 – 40 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated but the there still some left. Add the chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes more. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve in deep plates.