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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Baked Fish Armenian - Style

Baked Fish Armenian style made with fresh Florida flounder


Doug and I have often wondered why fish is not more prevalent in Armenian cuisine. True, Armenia is a land-locked nation, but rivers and streams do run through it - and - we all know fish can be found in such waters. Plus there’s Lake Sevan, famous for its trout (aka Ishkan), and another variety of lake trout called ‘Sig’, also a favorite.


Due to years of overfishing, Lake Sevan trout has become an endangered species, therefore
fish-breeding farms have sprouted up in Armenia, producing tons of fish. Armenia hopes to export the fish to the European market.

Fish dishes made a rare appearance in our dining tables when we were growing up.
My maternal grandmother would, on occasion, prepare whiting, a basic small fish. After the fish was cleaned, she would dredge it in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and fry it in hot oil until it was crispy. It was always served with lemon wedges. The whiting prepared that way was delicious – with one exception - all of the pesky bones!

When we first had our home in Belmar on the Jersey shore, one of our neighbors would share his ‘catch of the day’ with us, usually blue fish. Blue fish was pretty large so it could easily feed a family of 5. The problem with blue fish is that depending on what the blue fish ate, it either tasted really delicious, or down-right terrible. You never knew which it would be until it was cooked and you were consuming it, and then it was too late!

Dad cleaned the fish, and my mother baked it – usually with tons of sliced onions, celery, diced tomatoes and lots of herbs. Most of the time, the blue fish turned out great.

Here’s a recipe on the order of the one Mom used to make, without blue fish. Instead we use tried-and-true fish varieties in its place.
Served with quinoa and tossed salad

Baked Fish Armenian style
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil to grease baking pan
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 large tomatoes, cut into ¼ inch circles
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
2 yellow peppers, thinly sliced
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. Aleppo red pepper – or - ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper and ¼ tsp. paprika
2 lbs. fillet of white fish, snapper, sea bass, etc.
1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
Juice of one lemon
½ cup dry white wine

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Oil the bottom and sides of a large baking pan.
3. Layer HALF of the vegetables in the pan starting with the sliced onions, then sliced tomatoes, and finally with sliced red and yellow peppers. Sprinkle the vegetables with the black and Aleppo pepper - or - cayenne pepper-paprika mix.
4. Place the fish fillets on top of the vegetables. Layer the remaining onions, tomatoes and peppers on top of the fish. Sprinkle tarragon, oregano, and salt over the vegetables. Pour the lemon juice and wine over all.
5. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve with your favorite side dish.

Our Fish Plaki dish
NOTE: Also check out our Fish Plaki recipe.

4 comments:

  1. There are actually a surprising number of Armenian fish recipes, it turns out. The way my mom made it when I was a kid was to take a large fish (usually some kind of white fish like sea bass), salt and pepper it (both black and red Aleppo pepper), bake it with a little olive oil or butter. On the side, she would make taratoor (tahini paste, water, lemon juice, mashed garlic, and salt). The fish served this was surprisingly tasty. You can serve it with fried pita chips if you like.

    There is supposed to be a recipe for stuffed (grape? strawberry?) leaves with fish, served with sour cherry or pomegranate sauce. I have not seen the recipe, just heard about it, but it should not be too hard to reconstitute it. The only question in my mind is what kind of grain, if any, they used in the stuffing.

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    Replies
    1. Sounds wonderful, especially with taratoor on the side. Mmmm.
      I'll look into the leaf-stuffed-with-fish recipe; sounds intriguing. Thanks!

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    2. Thanks for the recipe :) It tasted awesome

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