Whitefish Cakes, Onion and Tomato Salad

This recipe closes my trilogy of “Lake Sevan’s Gifts” (see here and here for the first two parts). Common whitefish, locally called sig, was introduced into Lake Sevan from Lake Ladoga, and has since become the prominent species as far as food goes. Goldfish were also introduced, which is a rather curious choice. Fish are typically introduced for human consumption and / or recreational purposes, and goldfish don’t seem to fit either of those criteria!

Although I don’t remember seeing fishcakes in Armenia (kebabs often being our only option during the whole trip), Armenian cookbooks do mention somewhat similar dishes, such as fish balls. If that’s more to your liking, you can certainly prepare the whitefish mixture as below and shape it into balls; coat the balls with either Wondra flour or breadcrumbs, and deep-fry them until golden-brown.

The tomato and onion salad provides a simple accompaniment, the kind that’s often served everywhere in the Caucasus. I encourage you to get the best heirloom tomatoes you can find.

Whitefish cakes
Yields 4 servings

1 green pepper (about 8 oz)
5.5 oz peeled eggplant
salt
2 oz olive oil
1 oz brioche
10 oz whitefish
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp mustard
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
3/8 tsp piment d’espelette
1/2 tsp smoked salt
1/4 tsp transglutaminase
Wondra flour
1 oz butter

  • Char the green pepper on a gas stovetop or with a blowtorch. Peel, seed, pat dry, then chop into a brunoise. Weigh 4.5 oz, and reserve the rest for another recipe.
  • Chop the eggplant into a brunoise, season with salt, and sauté in 3/4 of the olive oil until soft. Add the green pepper, and cook until golden brown. Let cool and refrigerate.
  • Slice the brioche, toast until golden-brown, and cut into small dice. Reserve.
  • Sauté half of the whitefish in the remaining olive oil (without salt), remove from the heat when barely cooked, and let cool. Flake the fish between your fingers, pat dry, and refrigerate.
  • In a blender. process the rest of the whitefish with the egg, mustard, lemon juice, piment d’espelette, smoked salt, and transglutaminase until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and mix with the green peppers, eggplant, brioche, and cooked whitefish. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until very cold.
  • Shape the mixture into 4 cakes, each 1″ thick, then generously sprinkle Wondra flour on both sides.
  • Sauté in a non-stick pan with butter over medium heat until brown on both sides. Finish the cakes in a 350 F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sides feel firm to the touch. Serve immediately.

Onion and tomato salad
Yields 4 servings

2.5 oz peeled red onion
1/2 tsp salt, plus some to season the tomatoes
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp sumac
1/8 tsp Urfa pepper
16 oz quartered heirloom tomatoes

  • Using a mandoline, slice the red onion as thinly as you can. Mix with the salt, place in a conical sieve, and let drain for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse the onion under cold water, and squeeze out the excess water. In a bowl, mix with the vinegar, sumac and Urfa pepper.
  • Season the tomatoes with salt, arrange them with the onion mixture in a bowl, and refrigerate until serving.

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