Faith Kramer’s Gefilte Fish with Smashed Tomato Topping
Food writer and recipe developer Faith Kramer joined us at the LFJCC earlier this month for a wonderful Our Shabbat Table experience. Attendees enjoyed freshly prepared recipes from Faith’s new cookbook, 52 SHABBATS: FRIDAY NIGHT DINNERS INSPIRED BY A GLOBAL JEWISH KITCHEN, as Faith discussed the dishes, and the lesser-known spices they often include, with local San Diego chef and educator Debbie Kornberg.
Check out Faith’s flavorful Gefilte Fish recipe and use it to spice up your Passover table!
I grew up with bland gefilte fish out of jars, which I mostly appreciated as a vehicle for horseradish. This baked version is packed with flavors I associate with North African and Sephardic food and comes with a colorful garnish of cooked tomatoes and peppers, but you can just top it with horseradish (or do as I do and use both). I usually serve it as a starter or first course, but you can double the portion size for a main dish. For the best taste, use the freshest fish you can find. For a more Eastern European version, leave out the jalapeño, cumin, and turmeric. If you don’t have a food processor, finely grate the onions and carrots and mince the vegetables and fish. This makes a great starter for Passover and other Jewish holidays. For some Jews, certain foods, including cumin, are considered kitniyot, foods that not prohibited by the Torah but are not allowed at Passover. If that’s the case for you, simply omit the cumin in this recipe during the holiday.
FOR THE TOMATO TOPPING
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onions, cut in half
2 to 3 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or paprika
2 cups (1/2-by 1-inch) yellow and/or red bell pepper pieces
2 cups small cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
FOR THE GEFILTE FISH
Vegetable oil for the baking pan
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, quartered
1 small jalapeño or serrano chile, optional
1 large celery stalk, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
2 pounds boneless skinless mild white fish fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 large eggs, beaten
2 to 3 cups arugula, watercress, or other greens
12 olives, for garnish
12 lemon wedges
TO MAKE THE TOMATO TOPPING
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the salt, black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne (use up to 1 teaspoon if
you like it spicier), and the bell peppers and sauté until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes. Using a spatula, crush the tomatoes until they break apart. Continue to sauté until they are very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and sauté until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Taste and add more salt, cayenne, lemon juice, and sugar, if desired. Set aside.
TO MAKE THE GEFILTE FISH
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking pan with vegetable oil. Combine the onion, garlic, carrot, bell pepper, jalapeño (if using), celery, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Pat dry the fish and cut it into chunks. Place it in the food processor and process until it forms a coarse paste. You may need to work in batches. Transfer the fish to the bowl with the vegetables.
Add the salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar (use 2 teaspoons of sugar if you prefer it sweeter), cumin, paprika, oregano, turmeric, and black pepper and stir until well mixed. Add the eggs and stir until completely combined. Add the fish mixture to the prepared baking pan, spreading it out and smoothing the top. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the fish is firm to the touch and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Let cool to slightly warm or room temperature (liquid on top will be reabsorbed), 30 to 45 minutes. Cut with a knife into 12 ovals or squares, or use a 2- to 3-inch cookie cutter to cut into rounds.
Place the greens on a large serving platter. Arrange the gefilte fish over the greens and garnish each piece with a spoonful of the tomato topping and an olive with lemon wedges on the side.
MAKE IT IN ADVANCE: The gefilte fish and sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored separately. Let the fish cool in the baking pan, cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate.
Recipe reprinted with permission from
52 SHABBATS: FRIDAY NIGHT DINNERS INSPIRED BY A GLOBAL JEWISH KITCHEN
By Faith Kramer The Collective Book Studio/December 2021
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Faith Kramer is a food writer and recipe developer concentrating on the foodways, history, and customs of the Jewish diaspora. She has written hundreds of posts about Jewish customs and food, travel, and global ingredients with accompanying recipes. As a columnist for the j., the Jewish News of Northern California, she writes articles twice a month on food and cooking along with original recipes. Faith has taught numerous cooking classes, presented programs on Jewish customs, celebrations, and holidays, and led food-related walking tours that explore the economic, geographic, and political underpinnings of the food as well as how to use international ingredients in other contexts. A frequent contributor to other Jewish food-related projects, her work can be found in Laura Silver’s Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food (Brandeis University Press) and Molly O’Neill’s One Big Table cookbook (Simon and Schuster), plus many others. Faith lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit FaithKramer.com for links to more of her writing about Jewish customs and food, travel and global ingredients and recipes.