Excerpted from Taste of Persia by Naomi Duguid.
Recipe by Baliq Levangi
This Azeri version of baked stuffed fish is filled with a rich paste, called levangi, of ground walnuts, minced onion, and tart dried fruit.
Roasted Whole Fish with Walnut Paste
- About 2 tablespoons sunflower or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1½ cups walnuts or walnut pieces
- ¼ cup chopped sour fruit leather, homemade or store-bought, or sour plums or dried apricots, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained
- About 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Two 1½-pound whole fish, cleaned and scaled
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of the oil and then the chopped onion, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Grind the walnuts finely in a food processor. Add the onion, dried fruit, and ½ teaspoon salt and pulse to blend to a paste. Add the lemon juice and pulse again. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Place two large sheets of aluminum foil (double the length of the fish) on a rimmed baking sheet. Wash and dry the fish. Place one fish on each sheet of foil.
- Rub a little oil over each fish and in the cavities. Rub about ½ teaspoon salt in each cavity, then stuff with the paste. Cover the fish very loosely with the foil, creating a tent for it to steam in, and crimp the edges to seal.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and open the foil, being careful not to burn yourself with the steam. The fish should yield to the touch; if they are still firm, reseal their foil tents, return to the oven, and cook for another 10 minutes before testing again. Serve hot or at room temperature.