Cooking Class: A sea of flavors

Learn some great French and Spanish style fish recipes from chef Eyal Lavie of restaurant Pastis on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard.

Roasted beets and cheese salad (photo credit: BOAZ LAVI)
Roasted beets and cheese salad
(photo credit: BOAZ LAVI)
One of my best friends is a great lover of bouillabaisse, the French fish soup. It took her years to find her favorite in one of the old Parisian brasseries, where she would head for first thing every time she traveled to the City of Light, even before unpacking at her hotel. That is, until the 1990s, when she found Eyal Lavie’s bouillabaisse at his restaurant Pastis on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard.
“This is a dish that I went to Provence to research. I ate it in many different places until I found the one I liked best. It is a delicate dish, and you need to make it with care.
Many visitors, including French customers, say it is better than what they can find in France,” says the chef.
Lavie opened Bistro Rokach 73, his flagship, located at 73 Rokach Street in Tel Aviv in 2008. The bistro is elegant and offers meticulous Provencal-Catalan and Basque cuisine.
Lavie’s professionalism in working with fish, seafood and meat is reflected in the delightful range of dishes that present the best of Mediterranean and Provencal cuisines.
Last year he opened two new restaurants – Rokach Yam, an upscale tapas bar located in the new hub at Jaffa Port; and Rokach Shuk, at the entrance of the farmers’ market in the Tel Aviv Port, which serves more Spanish-influenced dishes, bursting with freshness and strong flavors.
His restaurants are not kosher, but he says that classic Mediterranean cuisine can easily be translated to kosher. He has prepared for us the recipes for a few of his favorite dishes from his three restaurants.
Serves 4
Romesco is a nut and red pepper-based sauce from Catalonia, Spain, typically made from any mixture of almonds and/ or other nuts, garlic, red peppers and tomatoes.
Flour or ground stale bread may be used as a thickener or to provide texture.
It is very often served with fish but can also be served with a wide variety of other foods, such as poultry, lamb and vegetables.
Chef Lavie serves this Romesco fish dish on a bed of roasted eggplant.
✔ 2 large sea bream fillets (800 gr. each)
✔ 2 large eggplants
✔ 4 green onions
✔ 4 Tbsp. peeled roasted almonds
✔ 4 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Sea salt
✔ Ground black pepper For the Romesco sauce
✔ 2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
✔ 1 red bell pepper
✔ 2-3 cloves garlic
✔ 2 Tbsp. roasted almonds
✔ 1 thick slice white bread
✔ ¼ cup white wine vinegar
✔ ½ cup virgin olive oil
✔ Bunch parsley
✔ Salt and pepper
Roast whole eggplant over open flame until charred. Set aside.
To prepare the sauce: Heat oven to 250°.
Place tomato quarters on a lined baking sheet, add the pepper and whole garlic cloves. Drizzle vegetables with a little oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until tomatoes and peppers are seared and slightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.
When cooled, remove the skin from tomatoes, garlic and peppers.
Place the roasted vegetables and the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, in a food-processor bowl. Grind while slowly drizzling the oil until a soft paste is formed.
Season with salt if necessary.
This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for a week. It can be used as a spread for sandwiches, pasta or any other dish.
To prepare the fish: Heat the oven to 220°.
Rub fish fillets with olive oil on both sides. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper, and place on a lined baking sheet, skin side up.
Rub the whole green onions with a little oil and place next to the fish.
Bake for 8-12 minutes. The fish is done when it turns white.
Meanwhile, remove the pulp of the eggplant and discard the peel. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper, and place in an oven-proof dish. Keep warm in the oven together with the fish.
To serve: Divide the eggplant among the plates. Using a tablespoon, spread a little Romesco sauce on the eggplant and place the fish on top. Garnish with roasted green onion and almonds. Drizzle with a few more drops of olive oil and serve immediately.
Makes 4-5
Cazuela is Spanish for “cooking pot.” Lavie makes this dish with fish patties cooked in a rich sauce.
For the fish cakes:
✔ 800 gr. ground fresh fillets of sea bream or other white fish. Ask the fishmonger to grind the fish for you
✔ 1 heaping tsp. fresh ginger
✔ Bunch chopped cilantro (or parsley)
✔ Bunch chopped basil
✔ 1 medium onion, chopped
✔ Salt and white pepper
✔ 2-3 Tbsp. bread crumbs (from 2-3 slices of stale white bread)
✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil For the sauce
✔ 1 kg. ripe tomatoes, peeled
✔ 3 peppers (red, green or yellow) thinly sliced
✔ ¼ cup olive oil
✔ 5 whole garlic cloves
✔ ¼ tsp. fennel seeds
✔ ½ lime or green lemon
✔ 1 tsp. fresh green chili, chopped
✔ Salt
✔ 1 cup coconut cream (150 ml.)
✔ Handful cilantro leaves
To prepare sauce: Heat oil in a medium pot.
Cut tomatoes into quarters and sauté in the oil together with the garlic, fennel seeds and chili. Slice the lemon with the peel into thin slices. Remove pits and add to the pot.
Lower heat and continue cooking for 15- 20 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken.
Add the coconut cream and cilantro leaves and, using a hand blender, grind into a smooth sauce.
Add the onion and peppers to the pot, bring to a boil, season with salt and pepper and let simmer.
To prepare fish: Mix all the ingredients until smooth. Make medium-size (about 4 cm. in diameter) balls and cook in the hot simmering sauce. Cook for 10 minutes until sauce is thick and fish is cooked. Serve with white rice.
This French-inspired dish, bursting with fresh flavors of the beets and the goat cheese, is very popular in the Rokach Shuk restaurant at the farmers’ market in Tel Aviv.
✔ 1 package baby beets (4-5 beets) with stems and leaves, well washed
✔ 1 package mature goat cheese (St. Maure style or other)
✔ 1 basket baby arugula leaves
✔ 1 medium red onion, sliced
✔ 6-8 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Juice of ½ lemon
✔ 1 garlic clove, minced
✔ Salt and pepper
✔ 2-3 Tbsp. roasted hazelnuts
✔ 2-3 Tbsp. honey Heat the oven to 180°.
Wash the beets well. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Place the beets on the foil, drizzle with 3-4 Tbsp. oil, sprinkle a little salt and pepper and wrap the beets with the foil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or more, until beets are tender.
Remove from the oven, slice beets and chop the leaves.
Meanwhile, cut the cheese into ½-cm.discs and slice the onion.
In a large bowl, toss together the beets, arugula, onion and cheese. Mix together 3-4 Tbsp. oil, lemon juice and garlic and drizzle over the salad. Toss again until all the greens and the beets are coated with dressing. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle a little honey over each dish. Garnish with hazelnuts.
Makes 10
The renowned French fish soup is Lavie’s specialty. Traditionally made with seafood as well as fish, Lavie says that it is just as good made with only fish. Use whatever fish is available and fresh. Best to use more than one kind. Choose any sea fish such as grouper, sea bream or whiting. Ask the fishmonger to fillet the fish for you, but keep the bones for the broth.
✔ 2 kg. mixed fresh fish, filleted. Keep the bones
For the broth:
✔ Bones
✔ 4 celery stalks, chopped
✔ 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
✔ 2 onions, peeled and chopped
✔ A little olive oil
✔ 4 allspice pods
✔ 2 bay leaves
✔ 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds or 2 fresh fennel bulbs
✔ Bunch fresh herbs, chopped (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
✔ 1 hot chili pepper (optional) For the bouillabaisse
✔ Fish fillet
✔ Fish broth
✔ 4 celery stalks, chopped
✔ 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
✔ 2 onions, peeled and chopped
✔ 10 ripe tomatoes, quartered
✔ 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
✔ 5 potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
✔ Olive oil
✔ A little saffron (or turmeric)
✔ 5 whole cloves garlic, peeled
✔ Salt and white pepper
✔ Pastis or other anis alcohol
✔ Bunch chopped parsley
To prepare fish broth: in a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil. Add carrots, celery, fennel, herbs, chili and seasonings. Sauté together for a few minutes, add fish skeleton and bones and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
Add water up to three times the height of the ingredients in the pot. Bring to a boil uncovered. Cook over medium heat for 1 hour. Remove the accumulating froth from time to time.
Remove from heat and let cool. When cooled, strain through a thin strainer or cloth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To prepare bouillabaisse: In a large pot, sauté the onions in a little oil. Add the carrots and celery. Add the garlic and saffron and continue cooking until vegetables are golden. Add the potatoes, tomato paste and tomatoes and mix well.
Add the fish broth. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes, until vegetables are cooked.
Using a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Bring back to a boil and season to taste.
Slice the fish and add to the soup. Cook until done (2-3 minutes).
Just before serving, add 1-2 Tbsp. anise alcohol (pastis or other) to the pot and garnish with chopped parsley.
Bouillabaisse is traditionally served with toasted bread and a spread called rouille, made from mayonnaise, garlic, chili, vinegar and saffron.
Recipes and photos courtesy of chef Eyal Lavie of Rokach 73, (03) 744-8844; Rokach Yam (03) 629-4141; and Rokach Shuk (03) 710-2663 restaurants in Tel Aviv.