Moroccan Fish with Chermoula Sauce
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
As a child. my mother educated me on the different cultures of the world through the exposure of various global dishes she would make in her humble little kitchen. She didn’t travel much, but she took my siblings and me on cultural adventures through food. Hungarian goulash, Spanish Paella, Chinese Chow Mein, and of course loads of Middle Eastern dishes would greet us at dinner time. Sometimes my siblings and I loved the dishes, other times not. However, through her cooking, she educated us about a world vastly different than our own and opened up our palates to new and unfamiliar foods. As an adult, I have continued the tradition of “traveling” the world by experimenting in my kitchen, trying the dishes of faraway countries, and imagining the scenery and culture of these places with each bite. One country I long to visit is Morocco. I imagine fragrant spice markets, the rusty orange sands of the Marrakech desert, and colorful cuisine in clay tagine pots. The Moroccan dish that captures the essence of these visuals on my virtual “travel itinerary” is Fish with Chermoula Sauce.
Chermoula is a blend of spices like coriander, paprika, saffron or cumin along with fresh herbs, giving it a fresh and earthy taste, with colors reminiscent of a Moroccan mosaic. Olive oil turns the combination of herbs and spices into a paste or marinade, similar to a pesto sauce. However, no two chermoula sauces are the same, and Moroccans take great pride in their individual interpretations of this sauce. This widens the net of experimentation and adventure, with no rigid interpretations. However, one ubiquitous spice that must be included is cumin. In Morocco cumin is used in almost every dish and is considered so important that it is served on the table along with salt and pepper. Paprika adds a nice hint of color and is mild enough to go with many spices.
You can use any kind of white fish you like, from sole and cod to tilapia or rockfish. This is also a great meal to try in the spring and summer when the tomatoes and peppers get sweeter by the day. A bed of sauteed peppers and onions is topped with sliced tomatoes, fresh fish, and then crowned with the chermoula marinade. You can also make this Chermoula-style fish in a traditional Moroccan tagine for a moist, delicious, and dramatic result. To see the technique on how to make this dish, and how to pick the freshest fish, click on the video below:
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
Purée all sauce ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow stream.
For fish and vegetables
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, cut into slices
2 red or yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
2 medium tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices or a cup of cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 pound white fish fillets, skinned (like sole, cod, haddock, or whitefish)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, add the onions and bell peppers, season with salt, and saute until just tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Put peppers and onions into the baking dish, then add the fish and then tomatoes, seasoning both with salt and pepper. Pour the chermoula sauce evenly overfish and bake in the middle of the oven until the fish is just cooked through, about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the YouTube cooking show called Feast in the Middle East and cookbook author. For more authentic and classical Middle Eastern recipes, you can now purchase her brand new cookbook: “Feast in the Middle East, A Personal Journey of Family and Cuisine” by clicking HERE:https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2189
To check out her cooking video tutorials and other recipes follow Blanche on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv
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