Crescent Moon, Red Sea

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Night fishing in the Red Sea comes with its own unique set of circumstances. Not only are the currents, tides and reefs but there are also some of the fastest and hungriest of sharks to compete with. This rhythm of living is not for everyone.

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This is tilefish. The warm water currents pushing up from south bring this fish to Massachussets waters. It gets to live in these currents just off of the continental shelf. Local small boats race out the distance, about 100 miles, fill their holds and race back to shore. This tilefish is brought to me by Red’s Best Seafood in Boston. And on a personal note, thank you Jason Tucker, for bringing Boston the freshest fish.

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I can only imagine the conditions aboard a dhow, especially from a cook’s perspective. On small boats, it was a shared responsibility. Nonetheless, you are cooking off the grid, astride a moving body of water and hoping you are not the one to set this craft afire. I can only imagine the arduous conditions in which to feed people.

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Hawaj is a blend of spices from Yemen. Traditionally, it was used to flavour sheep, goat, or even, camel on the desert caravans. Hawaj is a melange of turmeric, black pepper, cumin, clove and cardamom. Its flavour profile is tart peppery.

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I dry rubbed the tilefish with the Hawaj seasoning and let it sit while the fire came to temperature and the  grilled the fish. I grilled garlicky pole beans to offset the warm spiced nuances of my Hawaj.

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I seasoned pototoes from my garden with Hawaj. I was not disappointed.

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My Hawaj relied on the princinciples of dhow cooking……no pork, no alcohol…..and limited humble resources……..but plenty of fire.

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My Hawaj is conspicuous by its lack of broth and a dhow. I used a base of tomato juice and rested the seasoned, in this case, cod in the plate with thyme, preserved lemon and Aleppo pepper from Syria. I crossed my fingers and hoped I would not be tossed overboard.

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Every peasant gets this idea of having a flat bread to clean up your plate with. I have rubbed my flat bread with a simple rosemary brush in order to spread the oil around. I have only grapeseed oil.

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Rosemary and coarse sea salt flat bread or hearth bread.

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My interpretation of Hawaj…..with the sea. As the fish cooks, fissures appear. you can see where the juices and olive oil meet. Hawaj can be prepared to your degree or level of heat. I suggest going mild. Let your fish speak with an Arab flavour, insh’allah.

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Yemani coffee is a dying species. For coffee afficionados, this is too bad and that is another story for another night. Haul in those nets. Thanks for reading and eat like a peasant.

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