Friday, September 27, 2013

Pan-Roasted Monchong with Green Tahini Sauce & Pomegranate Seeds + a Recap of My Dozen Favorite Ottolenghi Recipes

It's so hard to say goodbye! You'd think that after over four years, cooking along with eight different chefs at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I would get used to saying goodbye to the current chef and moving onto the next one. But, six months of making a weekly recipe from a selected chef, you begin to bond with that person. This time I more than bonded with Yotam Ottolenghi--he gets me! His recipes are exactly what I want to eat--unique combinations of ingredients and flavors with an emphasis on fresh vegetables. I truly have not had a recipe of his that I did not at least enjoy, if not totally love. Still, next week kicks off six months of Donna Hay's beautiful food and simple, elegant dishes... so say goodbye to Ottolenghi I must.

To send him off with love, I am once again opening my recently-purchased Ottolenghi: The Cookbook for our final weekly recipe together. There are some delectable fish recipes in the book and I was especially pulled toward the description of the Panfried Sea Bass with Green Tahini & Pomegranate Seeds. I am choosing to call the dish Pan-Roasted rather than Panfried since it is drizzled with olive oil (which I significantly reduced), and then baked/roasted in the oven--I think it is a more appropriate description. 

I try to buy/eat local fish whenever possible so I switched out the sea bass for a local choice-- monchong (aka sickle pomfret, a firm, white, somewhat mild and oily fish), which was about half the cost per pound of sea bass--so a win all around. Served with a rice blend of red, brown and wild rice and a salad of local baby greens, sweet little "currant" tomatoes, Big Island goat cheese and toasted pine nuts, it makes for a colorful (and very visually crowded I am afraid!) ;-) plate and a fabulous send-off dinner for a great chef.

Ottolenghi says, "This is a quick dish that can be assembled in a flash. The only hard work is getting the seeds out of the pomegranate--and even that isn't so bad. Have the tahini and seeds ready in advance (but not chilled) and the rest should be done in 10 minutes." 

Pan-Roasted Monchong with Green Tahini Sauce & Pomegranate Seeds
Adapted From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
(Serves 4)

4 fish (sea bass or fish of choice) fillets, any pin bones removed
4 Tbsp olive oil (I cut this to about 1/2 Tbsp TOTAL--see Notes/Results below)
1/2 recipe Green Tahini Sauce (recipe below), at room temperature
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
grated zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup (100 g) pomegranate seeds (about 1/2 of pomegranate
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 lemon wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. / 200 degrees C.  Line a baking sheet with waxed/parchment paper. Season the fish with plenty of salt and pepper and lay it, skin side down, on the pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and then bake for 6 to 7 minutes. The fish should be firm and "bounce" back when you poke it with a finger.

Place the fish on individual serving plates and spoon the tahini sauce generously on top. Garnish with the chopped parsley, lemon zest, and pomegranate seeds. Place a lemon wedge next to the fish and serve at once.


Green Tahini Sauce
(Makes about 1 & 1/2 Cups)

Ottolenghi notes that "The sauce should be thick but runny, almost like honey. Once chilled it will thicken, so you will need to whisk it again and possibly add more water.

2/3 cup / 150 ml tahini paste
2/3 cup / 150 ml water (adjust amount based on tahini consistency)
5 Tbsp / 80 ml lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup / 30 g flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (if making by hand)

In a bowl, thoroughly whisk together the tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. The mixture should be creamy and smooth. If it is too thick, add more water. Stir in the chopped parsley, then taste and add more salt if needed.

If using a food processor or blender, process together all the ingredients except the parsley until smooth.  Add more water if needed. Add the parsley and turn the machine on again for a second or two. Taste for seasoning.

Notes/Results: Look how moist and gorgeous that monchong is! The tangy, nutty, complex tahini sauce is an excellent compliment to the fish, adding loads of flavor. Then, you get the brightness of the lemon zest, the herby parsley, and bursts of tangy pomegranate--making the whole dish pretty spectacular for not a lot of effort. The recipe calls for drizzling 1 tablespoon of olive oil each on four fillets--big overkill! I used my pastry brush to lightly brush each fillet with olive oil, using about 1/2 tablespoon total for all 3 fillets. Since there are 119 calories in a tablespoon of olive oil, this saved about 100 calories per serving--not to mention all that fat. I suppose if you were using a very dry fish you might need a little more but, an entire tablespoon of oil is extra fat and calories that you can put somewhere else--like towards dessert! ;-) Another Ottolenghi winner, I will definitely make the tahini sauce and this recipe again.

Selecting my top favorite recipes from our I Heart Cooking Clubs chefs is never particularly easy, every chef has given me some memorable dishes. Yotam Ottolenghi raised the bar however, I pretty much loved every recipe of his I made. Below are my picks, a dozen of the very best--the Ottolenghi recipes I not only loved but have made again or craved long after the last bits were eaten.

My first IHCC Ottolenghi recipe remains a favorite, gloriously green Herb, Chard, and Feta Soup. The soup works those oh-so-healthy greens (Swiss chard and baby spinach and fresh herbs) into the diet and the yogurt, lemon and feta keep the flavors balanced and prevent it from being too green tasting. Tangy, herby and pretty wonderful. 

I made several of Ottolenghi's soups and definitely the Garlic Soup with Harissa was a stand out. 25 garlic cloves make it full of flavor--sweet, garlicky, and very tasty on its own and I threw in chickpeas for a protein boost. Once you stir in the (homemade) harissa paste and yogurt, it becomes even better. Speaking of the harissa--Ottolenghi's version is spicy and easy to make--another winner.

Ottolenghi also knows his salads--starting with this Zucchini & Hazelnut Salad. This simple combination of the grilled squash with toasted hazelnuts, basil and shavings of Parmesan with just enough balsamic to give flavor but not overpower the rest of the ingredients is sublime. One of the best ways to use up a bounty of zucchini. 

The Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds was popular with a lot of our IHCC participants and for good reason--sweet dates, crunchy sumac/chile-dusted almonds and croutons, and red onion (mellowed by a soak in white wine vinegar), all work together in a sweet and tangy combination. Unusual and fabulous for entertaining--but simple enough to make every day.  

I have made the Asparagus and Samphire (Sea Asparagus) salad twice since last week. I am lucky to get local asparagus and sea asparagus most of the year here because I am in love with this salad/side. Something about the combination of the salty with the sesame and the unusual punch of fresh tarragon. I have been eating it in homemade poke bowls--sprouted brown rice, spicy ahi poke, this salad and sesame seeds--it is addicting I tell you! If you can ever find fresh samphire where you are at--grab it and make this. 

Appetizers and starters are another area Ottolenghi and I bonded--although for me, most of these ended up being dinner rather than a starter. These Baked Tomatoes with Baguette were fabulous for summer--the tomatoes burst with flavor, the sauce is lightly creamy and full of the flavor of the garlic and herbs, and it all is perfectly soaked up by the bread while the crispy topping adds good texture. A keeper recipe.

I saw these Spiced Garam Masala and Rosemary Nuts for purchase on Ottolenghi's website and decided to take the ingredient list and make my own at home. Can I call it an offical Ottolenghi recipe? Maybe not--but the mix of garam masala, celery salt, garlic salt and cayenne with fresh rosemary is amazing and it is another indication that the man knows how to combine flavors. Mixed with dark chocolate chips, it makes a fabulous trail mix. I will be making these to give out for the holidays. 

Labneh was one of our Optional Monthly Community Recipes and I put mine to very good use in Labneh with Olives, Pistachio & Oregano. The creamy yogurt cheese topped with the briny olives, fresh herbs and toasted nuts was a excellent combination of flavor and texture. I liked it best slathered on seeded flat bread crackers. 

Ottolenghi is the master of assembling different components to make a recipe sing. Case in point, his Butter Bean Purée with Dukkah & Egg. On its own, the purée is mild and nice but not anything really special. When you top it with the grated egg, lemon zest, smokey paprika and the nut and spice dukkah mix, it elevates this hummus-like appetizer to a higher level. 

Another dish where the different components came together magically was the Fish and Caper Patties with Burnt Eggplant and Preserved Lemon. Each part was fabulous on its own--tangy-savory little fish cakes, pungent sweet/sour preserved lemon (Ottolenghi's Quick Pickled Lemons) and my absolute favorite--the burnt eggplant sauce/spread, but together, they made for an amazing plate of flavor. 

To me, Ottolenghi's Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta was an ingenious mix of flavor and texture. The chewy-in-a-good-way barley had a rich and complex tomato flavor with a delicious combination of aromatics and spices--garlic, shallots, lemon peel, thyme, smoked paprika, chile flakes, and oregano. Topped with the creamy feta, marinated in caraway and olive oil, it is a dish I keep thinking about and drooling over.

Speaking of drool-worthy dishes, the one Ottolenghi dish that is never far from my mind was his one dessert recipe that I made over the past six months, the Almond/Walnut & Blueberry Crumble CreamI switched out the fruit on this combination of a fool and a crisp to make the most of a bounty of on-sale organic blueberries and added sliced almonds to the cookie-like crumble. The result was beyond fantastic. The thick and decadent spiced cream--a mix of heavy cream, Greek yogurt and mascarpone cheese--was like a pillowy cloud of yum. This would be great with any seasonal fruit. 

I was going to throw in a few honorable mentions (Shakshuka, the Fried Tofu and Chilli Oil topping Ottolenghi's Red Lentil Soup, Grape Leaf with Herb & Yogurt Pie, even this week's Green Tahini to name a few) but, since I have listed almost half of the recipes already as my favorites, I thought it borders on overkill. ;-) Suffice it to say, Ottolenghi and I really clicked and know I will continue to happily cook with him and discover even more favorite dishes!

You can check out what dishes the other IHCC participants made for their Oh, Ottolenghi! good-by dishes and/or their favorite Ottoelnghi recipes by following the links at the post. 

We will be kicking off cooking with our newest IHCC chef Donna Hay, starting this coming Monday, 9/30. Drop in and cook along with us!

Happy Aloha Friday!


  1. Ottolenghi has definitely been my favorite IHCC chef to cook with as well! I just loved that all the recipes were things I would have wanted to make anyway, but just might not have found the time to! That green tahini sounds particularly fabulous. I can think of quite a few uses for that sauce!

  2. Personally I'd skip Donna Hay and do another round of Ottolenghi. I love his food!

  3. Joyce, Kitchen FlavoursSeptember 27, 2013 at 5:56 AM

    A beautiful meal! The fish looks delicious!
    And a delicious roundup too! I love that spinach salad and am eyeing the Baked Tomatoes with Baguette!
    I have enjoyed cooking from Ottolenghi's recipes, I've learned to love tahini, harissa paste and sumac!
    Thanks Deb, for being such a wonderful hostess with Sue and Kim.
    Now on to Donna Hay!

  4. Oh my gosh, that fish is so perfectly cooked! Your enthusiasm for YO shines through in your post, Deb. It's wonderful that you and YO clicked so well. I always find it difficult to pick favorites!

  5. Couscous & ConsciousnessSeptember 27, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    It is hard to say goodbye, isn't it?! I feel exactly the same way you do about Ottolenghi, and he's definitely going to continue to show up regularly in my kitchen. Your farewell dish is gorgeous, Deb, and I love that you chose a local fish instead of the sea bass. Love your round-up too - still so many great dishes I need to make.

  6. Your final Ottolenghi dish for his send off sounds wonderful and that is one delicious looking roundup!

  7. Wow! What a round-up! This final fish is just beautiful to ... what colors to play with that soft fish and sauce!

  8. I love Ottolenghi and have made many of his dishes, but none of these. It has been awhile since I've looked through his books, but I have an electronic version of Plenty since I packed my hardcover away. Until then, thank you for compiling a great list. :)


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