I’d like to start this post with a picture which sums up why I love Paris, despite this past cold winter, its frequent and unexpected strikes, natural disasters such as volcanos, and overall delay in getting anything processed or registered, ever. There’s clearly something about Paris which is breathtaking and worth seeing; it’s not for nothing that it’s one of the most visited cities in the world, and springtime is a particularly easy and pleasurable season to enjoy it. The picture above is one I took as I was exiting the metro; I added the border for kicks and giggles. I guess a photo such as this one explains what makes Paris so special to me; even something so banal as leaving a metro station becomes pleasant when you walk out to a sight like this.
Now let’s move on to the dinner I made for myself tonight, a dish which I grew up eating relatively often, and which I highly recommend for you my dear reader. It’s at once healthy, hearty, salty, herby, and tangy with a refreshing lemon flavor that encases the fish filet. Basmati rice is something I fear is under-appreciated around the world; I care very much about this fact, so much so that I am writing my master’s thesis on the reason why, in addition to Persian cuisine in general, basmati rice has not become more popular (long story short, you can probably guess, most Iranians aren’t exactly inclined to shout from the rooftops where they came from, and even less so to divulge in what they’re eating at home). Basmati rice is a long-grain, fragrant white rice which originates from India. It is a good source of iron, and because of it’s medium glycemic index, is a healthy option for diabetics.
I obviously love this dish for its Proustian effects on me – one spoonful of rice and fish and I’m brought back to childhood memories of sitting around a white marble dinner table with my family, with a heaping pile of steaming basmati rice and some sort of fish or meat accompaniment, often involving saffron, served alongside it. Nostalgic memories aside, it’s an easy dish that takes about 30 minutes to put together, and which is absolutely delicious. The rice also goes fantastically with smoked whitefish.
Saffron Fish with Dill and Fava Bean Rice
– serves 1
for the rice:
1/2-cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained at least once (preferably soaked in water for 2-24 hours, but not necessary)
1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans (if using fresh, shell them)
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoons canola or sunflower oil
for the fish:
1 fish filet, such as whitefish, scrod, sole, mullet, or snapper
1/4-teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 teaspoon warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small pinch paprika
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
1. If using frozen fava beans, cook them in boiling water until just softened, about 6-7 minutes
2. Prepare the fish: wash and dry the filet, then sprinkle with salt and pepper
3. Fully line an oven-proof baking dish with foil. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the pan. Add the saffron-water, olive oil, paprika, and a pinch of salt; stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine. Place the fillet on the dish and marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes, turning the fish over once halfway through.
4. Prepare the rice: in a small saucepan, add all of the ingredients plus 1 1/4-cup water, a pinch of pepper and a hefty teaspoon of salt, and give it all a gentle stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat until rice is softened and highly fragrant, about 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, take fish out of fridge and place in preheated oven; bake until cooked through, 20 minutes. Place on a plate with the rice, and pour any remaining pan juices over everything.
Buon appetito miei amici!