Poached Fish with Tomato & Cumin

Poached Fish food photo

Delicious Middle Eastern Fish

When Kathy came home all a glow with her latest cookbook tome, I confess that I rolled my eyes. Here was a book over 2 inches thick and 400 pages long. Will I ever really cook a significant portion of these recipes I asked myself? Nonetheless, “The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean” by Paula Wolfert has earned a permanent place on our shelf. Among the many recipes, one in particular has become a staple for us. A full menu including this dish is in my book “Mediterranean Diet Recipes for Weight Loss” on Amazon.

“Fish poached in cumin flavored tomato sauce” is described as a “simple, homespun dish for two that requires little time and only one skillet”. A key ingredient is Aleppo pepper. The Middle East is renowned for its spice bazaars were literally dozens of different ground peppers can be found. Aleppo pepper is course, gritty, dark red, earthy, and robust. The flavor is haunting. You may also see it sold under the name “Near East Pepper”. A suitable substitute can be made using three parts sweet Hungarian paprika and one part mildly hot crushed red pepper flakes.

Poaching fish is a foolproof method to make sure it comes out moist. In this dish fresh tomato is grated to form a poaching liquid. Celery and onion give the sauce body and texture. The recipe works best with mild, white fleshed fish. I have used its sole with outstanding results, though it is rarely available. Readily available and very affordable, tilapia has become the fish I rely on when preparing this dish.

The recipe is below. You can find this dish as part of a complete fabulous Mediterranean Menu in my book on Amazon, “Mediterranean Diet Recipes“.


Serves 2  (double or triple quantities as needed)

2 6-Oz. white-fleshed Fish Fillets

Sea Salt

1 Onion (large)

1 Celery Rib

1 Clove Garlic

1 tsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Ground Cumin

Pinch of Aleppo Pepper

1 Ripe Tomato (grated) – Discard skin

Pinch Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Chopped Fresh Parsley for garnish

1) Rinse the fish, pat dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Let stand for 1 hour.

2) Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice the onion, celery, and garlic and gently steam with the olive oil in a covered skillet 2-3 minutes.

3) Cut the tomato in half and gently rub cut side against the box grater on to a small plate. The skin will pull back and can be discarded. The remaining pulp is to be used in the recipe.

4)  Add the cumin and red pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute longer.  Add the tomato and 1/3 cup water and bring to a boil.  Add a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3) Slip the fillets into the simmering sauce (if using very thin fillets such as Sole, fold each fillet in half), cover, and cook over medium-low heat 4-6 minutes, or until the fish is done(the time varies with the thickness of the filet). Transfer the fish to a shallow serving dish. Boil the pan juices to reduce to a thick consistency.  Pour over the fish and let stand until ready to serve. Serve warm with parsley sprinkled on top.

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