Maharashtra fish curry

(debra samuels for the boston globe)
By Debra Samuels
Globe Correspondent / February 25, 2009

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Serves 4

In this fish curry from the Maharashtra region in western India, you get both delicate and piquant in one dish. Coconut milk makes the sauce creamy but you get plenty of heat and flavor with a balanced blend of spices. Most Indian cooks toast and grind whole spices - some do this daily - but Renu Dvivedi, an Indian cooking teacher in Greenwich, Conn., and Dubai, says dried spices will work; buy them in small quantities and use them within 6 months. The spices are sauteed initially with onion and green chili pepper. Then stir in the coconut milk, and add thick white fish fillets such as haddock, cod, pollock, or sole, along with zucchini. Tuck the thinner sections of the fish under the thicker parts to create a uniform size for cooking. The fish and vegetable are bathed in a golden, aromatic sauce. Rice rounds out this exotic meal.

1 1/2pounds white flesh fillets (haddock, cod, pollock, sole)
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small green chili, seeded and finely chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lemon, cut into slices
1. Tuck the thinner pieces of the fish under the thicker ones to make uniform pieces.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and chili. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the onion is golden.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, and cayenne and black peppers. Stir the spices into the skillet with the garlic and coconut flakes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the water to form a paste; cook 1 minute more.

4. Add the salt, turmeric, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat; simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Place the fish in the sauce. Set the zucchini at the edges. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and cook 3 minutes more or until the fish is done. Sprinkle with cilantro and garnish with lemons.

Adapted from Renu Dvivedi