Moroccan Baked Fish with Onions, Olives and Preserved Lemon


Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We made an extra-gigantic batch of preserved lemons this year, so I’ve been on the hunt for recipes.  A friend pointed out this NY Times recipe a while back, and I’ve been meaning to make it.

gigantic batch of preserved lemons

Our local salmon fisherman, Wild Run Salmon, has started catching and selling cod early in the farmers’ market season. I recently bought some from him and the rest is history, as they say! I decided to make this with cod even though it was not called for in the original recipe. This is a WOW dish –  tasty, colorful and that it’s easy to make is an added bonus. Randy and I were both happy it made enough for two meals this week.  A Sauvignon Blanc was a great match for these flavors.  (I don’t this this would be the case with a New Zealand SB – American or French have the right flavor profile.)

Ingredients for 4 servings

1  pound firm white fish such as halibut, snapper or cod, cut into 4 pieces
Salt and pepper
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped leaves and stems
2 garlic cloves, processed through a garlic press
1/2-1 serrano chile, very finely chopped, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1/2 preserved lemon, finely diced
1/2-1 cup green and/or black pitted olives, cut in half


Marinate the fish in cilantro sauce

Toast 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds in a dry skillet till fragrant.  Cool slightly and roughly grind in a mortar and pestle. Place the cilantro, garlic, chile, 1 teaspoon of the ground spice mixture and the paprika in a bowl.  Whisk the 1/4 cup olive oil and lime juice together and add to the cilantro mixture. Salt to taste. Stir to combine thoroughly. Place some of the cilantro sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Place the fish on top of the sauce, and optionally salt and pepper to taste.  Set a small amount of the sauce aside for serving at the table with the cooked fish. Place the remaining sauce on top of the fish. Cover the dish and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. You can marinate for longer, but refrigerate except for the last hour.  NOTE: 1/2 serrano packed a lot of heat in the sauce, so I say use sparingly so the heat doesn’t blot out the flavor.

Moroccan Baked Fish with Onions, Olives and Preserved Lemon

Prepare the sauteed onions

Slice the onions. I recommend cutting “pole to pole” rather than “around the equator”.  I learned this technique a few years ago, which results in firmer and less stringy onions. Place the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan and heat over a medium burner. When it begins to shimmer, add the butter. When butter is melted and slightly bubbly, add the onions. Stir to coat, then add the remaining ground spice mixture, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, the turmeric and cayenne and stir to combine thoroughly. Turn up the heat slightly and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions just begin to brown, 10-15 minutes.  Place in an oblong baking dish large enough to hold all the fish on top of the onions. Stir in the preserved lemon and place the olives on top.

Bake the fish with the onions 

Preheat the oven to 400°F.   Place the fish on top of the onions, scraping all the remaining sauce on top of the fish. Bake on the top level of the oven for 10-15 minutes, until fish is firm to the touch.

Serving suggestions

You can place the fish on top of the onions on serving plates or alongside as shown in the photo. Place a little of the reserved sauce on each serving. You can see we served with fresh roasted asparagus – it’s that time of year!  I think roasted potatoes or some sort of rice dish would be a nice complement.



Aunt Suzy says . . .

This week two food contest sites have put out a call for recipes with citrus.  This is a perfect time of year to cook with citrus, and it has been a welcome reminder that there are other types of food than the soups, stews and chilis we’ve been making here at S&SK this winter!  We want to enter this recipe, so I cooked it last night so we’d have some photos.  It’s been a long time since I’ve made this and while eating it, I was wondering why it’s been off the menu for so long!  It is as pretty as it is tasty and just what the doctor ordered to bring a taste of warmer climes to our dinner table.  We almost always serve this with Green Rice, recipe below, and a Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect pairing.

Margaux says . . .

This is one of my all time favorite dishes! The first time we made it, we were on vacation in Florida in 2002, and it made Jason (my husband) forget about the terrible sunburn he had for a few minutes. We’ve made it several times since, for company and just for ourselves, and I don’t think I can ever get tired of it! The salsa is a little tedious to make because of all the chopping, but totally worth it, and the ease of the fish makes up for it. The green rice is one of my favorite side dishes. It’s actually in my regular rotation, and I serve it with chicken or fish quite often. And it always gets rave reviews from guests!!

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Thanks for mentioning, Margaux, that this is a wonderful dish for company or a special occasion.  Both the fish and the green rice receive raves from everyone we’ve served it to!

Serves 4

The Salsa

2 navel oranges
1/2 cup plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup red onion, small dice
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, diced
1 heaping tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1/4 preserved lemon peel, diced (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Cut the top and bottom off the oranges.  Make 2-inch long strips of orange peel and set aside.  Cut the remaining skin off with a knife making sure that no white pith remains.   Slice cross-wise, about 1/3-inch thick, and then 1/2-inch pieces.  Place the orange pieces in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and stir to blend.  Set aside.  NOTE: This is just as good without the preserved lemon if you don’t happen to have any on hand.  Well, almost just as good :-).

The Fish

Four 6-ounce pieces cod filets (or halibut)
The strips of orange peel

Place the fish in an oiled glass baking dish.  Top with the orange peel strips.  Bake at 500 degrees, uncovered, for 7-10 minutes, depending on thickness.  To serve, place fish on individual serving plates and top with the salsa.

Green Rice

Cook 1 cup Basmati rice according to directions – you can use white or brown rice.  When rice is done and resting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a Dutch oven.  Add 1-2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced, and sauté 2 minutes, until fragrant.  Stir in and cook over medium high heat a total of 5 cups coarsely chopped greens – arugula, spinach, beet tops, watercress, parsley, etc.   Cook until just wilted.  Stir the rice into the greens and  blend well.  We usually make double the recipe!