It’s been a while since we prepared a Moroccan dish. We really shouldn’t wait so long because this dish is really off the charts good.
Well, it appears the fickle weather is beginning to settle down and things are returning back to normal. We finally hit 90 F for the first time on Monday. The weather has been beautiful. Temperatures are running in the mid-to-high 80s with the lows at night and in the morning in the 70s. The sky has been blue, blue, blue. It’s picture perfect weather. It’s also grilling time. So, primed with the urge to grill it was off to the market in search of a grillable piece of fish. I also was in search of some Scottish smoked salmon to do a salmon, crispy potato (think tater chip crispy), sour cream and cucumber napoleon appetizer I wanted to make (recipe found here). Tuesdays, however, are not a particularly good fish day at the market. Hence, the selection was limited and the smoked salmon left a lot to be desired. Oh well, no appetizer and Baby Lady was looking so forward to it, too. Nevertheless, they had just received a shipment that morning of some very fresh, wild halibut. Baby Lady would be pleased.
Now that I found the fish the next question would become what to do with it. I could marinate it. I could make a dill citrus rub for it. I could do a simple lemon cream sauce. Oh, the possibilities were endless. Then I got to seriously contemplating the issue. It was a that time I became inspired. I realized I hadn’t done anything Moroccan in quite some time. While most people relate Moroccan food with tagines (Moroccan stews), there is so much more to Moroccan food than tagines (which are quite good). In fact, I had preserved some lemons a while back and a charmoula with preserved lemons would be a perfect foil for the grilled halibut. Now, charmoula is a marinade or a sauce with a combination of flavors, i.e. saffron, chile, paprika, ginger, bay leaves, parsley, cilantro, onion, cumin and olive oil. It’s found in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Like harissa and ras el hanout, charmoula recipes are as varied and numerous as the stars in the sky. Well, maybe not that many but you get my point. Every household has their own family recipe for charmoula. Nevertheless, almost all versions of charmoula have certain common elements, chopped parsley, chopped cilantro, chopped onions and a wide assortment of spices. Like any sauce or marinade, however, charmoula is used to enhance the natural flavor of the food, not to mask it. It is widely used for grilling meats and fish in Moroccan cuisine. Some people even use it with roasted veggies. So, I knew it would work perfectly with the grilled halibut even though halibut is not a Mediterranean fish. This was a really wonderful, simple meal and this is what we did.
- 3 halibut steaks, roughly 7 oz. each
For the Veggies
- 1 eggplant peeled and sliced crosswise
- 1-2 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
- 3 spring onions, whole
- olive oil
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
For the Charmoula
- 1 preserved lemon, rind only, diced (you can find these at specialty shops but they are much better if you make your own. Given it’s lemon season, better get cracking)
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce (recipe found here) – substitute 1 to 1-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 large pinch saffron
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
For the Charmoula
Add the garlic to your food processor
Next, add the diced preserved lemon rind
now the saffron
hot sauce (or cayenne pepper)
and olive oil
Process the ingredients to a paste.
For the Veggies
Before grilling the halibut, lightly oil the veggies and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a preheated grill on medium heat.
Let them develop some good grill marks and turn. Try to get some cross hatch marks.
When the eggplant and squash are done, remove from the grill and cover with foil. They will remain hot while you grill the halibut. Keep the spring onions on the grill because they take more time.
For the Halibut
Liberally coat both sides of the halibut with the charmoula paste.
Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 1-1/2 hour. Remove from fridge, place in grilling basket and place on grill.
Cook 3 – 4 minutes per side until the interior is opaque and the fish just begins to flake. Do NOT overcook the fish.
Place a bed of grilled veggies on the plate.
Place halibut on top of grilled veggies
Add whatever accompaniments you choose
Place a grilled spring onion on the plate. Serve & enjoy