Anieema's Pescado Ahilado con Indivia

(Baked Fish With Bitter Lettuces )

Variations on this dish are found throughout the Jewish Mediterranean. This is a robust dish best made with strong-tasting fish like fresh tuna or mackerel. Bitter lettuces, garlic and white wine bring out the hearty flavors of the fish while sweet fennel and fresh tomatoes add softening tones.

Preparation Time: 50-55 minutes
Servings: 4 - 6

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (1 tablespoon)
4 stalks fennel, chopped, plus a handful of fennel leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups finely shredded chicory
3 cups finely shredded endive lettuce
4 large fresh tuna steaks (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)
8 anchovies, packed in olive oil, drained
1/2 cup freshly squeeze lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a deep casserole that has a tight-fitting lid.

2. In a deep, wide saute pan, heat 4 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions until soft and translucent (5-7 minutes). Reduce the heat slightly and add the garlic and chopped fennel stalks. Cook 4-5 minutes more or until the fennel stalks start to soften.

3. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour. Cook 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly and regulating the heat to prevent scorching.

4. Slowly add the vegetable stock and stir constantly to prevent lumping. The mixture will thicken into a thin sauce. Add the white wine and tomatoes and cook another 7-8 minutes or until the tomatoes start to soften. Remove from the heat and set aside.

5. Combine the two lettuces and put half into the prepared casserole.

6. Place the tuna steaks on top of the lettuce. Lay two anchovies across each tuna steak. Place the fennel leaves over this. Ladle the sauce over the tuna, sprinkle with the lemon juice, and season all over with pepper. Top with the remaining lettuce, a few grindings of pepper, and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

7. Cover the casserole with foil and then with its cover. Braise in the oven 40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions:
This is a filling entree and is accompanied only by crusty Mediterranean bread. Precede the entree with appetizers and salads like Roasted Eggplant Salad Arabic Style, Cucumber Salad with Kasseri Cheese, marinated black olives, and sliced fresh tomatoes. Conclude the meal with assorted fresh fruit, Sephardic cookies or baklava, and coffee.

The Sephardic Kitchen
by Rabbi Robert Sternberg
HarperCollins Publishers
Sept. 25, 1996

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