Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Charmoula with Preserved Lemon

So speaking of jazzing up fish...

Last week I had two plump halibut fillets ready to go for dinner, but I was fearful of falling into the same old rut of serving the fish with a vinaigrette. A couple weeks ago I was successful at avoiding the vicious-vinaigrette-cycle, trying my hand at a yuzu-kosho butter sauce. I wanted to continue in a similar vein, attempting something new.

I randomly grabbed an enticing cookbook off the shelf that I haven't used nearly as much as I should, Moroccan Modern by Hassan M'Souli. Within moments I had my solution. Not only had I figured out what to do with the halibut, I had also found a fantastic way to take advantage of my new batch of preserved lemons.

Charmoula with preserved lemons was the answer. Charmoula is a common North African marinade or garnish made with herbs, oil, preserved lemons and spices. This particular charmoula also relies heavily on chopped raw onion. I'll confess that this made me a wee bit nervous, but I soldiered on and can report no ill effects.

All this recipe requires is a dash of chopping and a smidgen of stirring and the result is a symphony for your olfactory system. And then when you finally taste the charmoula?


This charmoula possesses powerful flavor. The onion and garlic give a kick. The chiles lend heat. Extraordinary freshness comes from the cilantro and parsley. The cumin seeds and paprika introduce a seductive exoticism, while the real mystery is created by the saffron threads and the use of an entire preserved lemon.

I can vouch for M'Souli's assertion that this charmoula works wonderfully with baked fish. I'd also like to test it out on roast chicken and I'm certain it would shine on a simple carrot soup. It keeps for a few days in the refrigerator, but I liked it best the evening it was made.

Charmoula with Preserved Lemon

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 red onions, diced
4 large garlic cloves crushed
1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 red birds-eye chiles, finely chopped
1 preserved lemon, diced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, to cover

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Spoon into a jar and cover with a film of olive oil. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Makes approximately 4 cups

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