Before relocating to the Mid West earlier this year, my terra firma was the streets of Jerusalem. I know my way around that city better than any place I have ever lived or visited. I knew where and when to buy my produce, and where and when to avoid the bustle of the shuk (outdoor market) for fear of being trampled to death by haggling Grandmothers. Best of all, I knew where to eat. That said, my relationship with fish was not strong. Baked tilpia was not a dish I had ever made or ordered – it’s possible that I had never heard of Tilapia before moving to the US!
Shakushah is an Israeli classic, best served for brunch on a Friday morning during the summer months when you’re spending the first day of the weekend with friends, not worrying about the pending shabbat preparation. The eggs, poached in a spicy tomato sauce served with warm bread and melting butter makes for a breakfast that will stop time. I spent many a Friday morning at Tal Bagels with buddies, savoring this dish.
I was always eager to try variations of this time-honored breakfast and would eagerly scout hole-in-the-wall eateries or new restaurants that would offer their take on this breakfast of warriors. Two favorites come to mind. The first stayed true to the tomato base and introduced pickled lemon, tuna fish and black olives for a sour-Mediterranean approach. I love it. Served at Kalo on Derech Bet Lechem, if you happen to be visiting Jerusalem, it’s well worth ignoring the horrible service and savoring the dish.
The second was an entirely different approach, doing away with the traditional tomato base, Green Shakshuka is a suatee of fresh spinach gently seasoned with cumin, coriander and garlic, served with lightly fried eggs and feta cheese. For a region devoted to tradition, this is a wonderful way to break free from the mold.
The spinach and sweet potato hash I served with dinner tonight was inspired by the green shakshuka I adore, the flavors very similar, and a perfect side-dish to the baked-tilapia that took center stage.
Now, let’s gather our ingredients and bring a taste of Israel to dinner tonight:
Sweet Potato and Spinach Hash Recipe
- Two onions
- Five small (or two large) sweet potatos
- Curry Powder
- 1lb Spinach, fresh is always better but frozen works too
- Olive Oil for cooking
- Four Eggs
Dice your onions, and start browning them. In the mean time, dice your sweet potatoes, try and keep the pieces the same size so they cook evenly. Once the onions begin to brown, add the sweet potatoes to your pan and season. Allow to cook on the stove stop and add the spinach after about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally so the flavors combine, and cover. About ten minutes before serving, use a spoon to create a well for each egg. Crack an egg into the well and cover. Continue to cook until the egg has reached your preferred consistency – I like them runny!
Baked Tilapia Recipe
Let me start off by with one thing – I don’t believe in buying breadcrumbs, there’s almost always leftover bread or challah, so keep it, freeze it, and when you have enough of those ends-of-loaves, throw them in the food-processor with your seasoning of choice, and you have a ziploc bag full of breadcrumbs for your freezer. It’s easy. You’ll want breadcrumbs for everything from baked tilapia to mac and cheese!
- 6 pieces of tilapia
- 2 cups of garlic breadcrumbs
- Dried Dill
- Dried Parsley
- Five eggs
- One Lemon
Add dill and parsley to your breadcrumbs. Garlic too if you are using plain breadcrumbs. Dip the fish in an eggwash, bread, and set on a cookie sheet. Once you have breaded all your fish, squeeze a lemon in to the leftover egg. Mix, and brush over the breaded fish. Bake until golden brown.
If you’re feeling like you have some extra time before dinner and want to top this off with some home-made tatar sauce, it’s very easy. Combine some mayo, Dijon mustard, dill, chopped garlic and diced pickles (or relish) in a small bowl. Set in the refrigerator until ready to serve.