MOROCCAN BAKED WHOLE RED SNAPPER WITH PISTACHIO SAUCE (for four as a main course, for eight as part of a buffet)
For marinating the fish:
a 4-1/2 pound red snapper, gutted and scaled with head and tail left on
3 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds
12 peeled, crushed garlic cloves
1 bunch chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
juice of 3 lemons
For the vegetables:
4 fresh flat-leaf parsley stems
4 thin lemon slices
½ fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb thinly sliced
½ tablespoon fennel seeds
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 sliced, seeded, stemmed green pepper
5 mild, whole green chiles (such as anaheims)
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California bay leaf (preferably fresh), halved lengthwise
½ cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
pistachio sauce to accompany (recipe follows)
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400*. Lightly oil a large, shallow oven-to-table baking dish. Rinse the fish under cold tap water, inside and out, pat it dry with paper towels and place it in the dish.
2. Grind together the cumin seeds, garlic cloves, parsley, salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and add the lemon juice. Rub the fish with the spice mixture, making sure that all surfaces are well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
3. Place parsley stems, lemon, fennel bulb and seeds, onion, green peppers, chiles and bay leaves in cavity of fish (aromatics may spill into baking pan). Drizzle some of wine and extra-virgin olive oil over fish, then add remainder of both to pan.
4. Roast uncovered until fish is just cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Discard bay leaves.
NOTE: Other vegetables, such as 3 peeled, sliced carrots, 6 sliced new potatoes and/or 3 sliced plum tomatoes can be added with the other vegetables if you wish. If you prefer, the fish can be covered tightly with aluminum foil and baked for 20 minutes before the vegetables, wine and oil are added in step 3.
PISTACHIO SAUCE (about 1-1/2 cups)
1-1/4 cups unsalted pistachios (preferably Persian, 5-1/4 ounces)
1 small garlic clove
¼ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 to 3 teaspoons orange-flower water (also called orange-blossom water)
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh mint
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Pulse pistachios in a food processor until coarsely chopped, then transfer to a bowl.
2. Mince garlic with a large, heavy knife, then mash it to a paste with a pinch of sea salt using flat side of knife.
3. Stir garlic paste into pistachios along with the remaining ingredients until combined well. (Sauce can be made 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.)
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, March, 2005