Traveling to Morocco With Chermoula Fish and How to Stop Buying Fishy Fish!

Are any of you restless lately and needing to switch up your daily routine? When I get restless I start “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 on my “travel itinerary” for today is Fish with Chermoula Sauce, and I hope it inspires you to mix up your daily menu!

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 romesco 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. One thing I do know is there MUST be cumin in the mix.  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. 

This Moroccan style dish is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. You can use any kind of white fish you like, from sole to cod to tilapia. 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 sautéed 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 and delicious result.

The sourcing of the fish is just as important as the type of fish. A lot of the fish in the supermarket is farmed, which means the fish is full of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which are cancer causing industrial products or chemicals. On average farmed salmon have 16 times the PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the PCBs found in other seafood. A number of studies show that farmed fish accumulate PCBs from the fishmeal they are fed. The feed is often designed to have high amounts of fish oil and is made largely from ground-up small fish. PCBs concentrate in oils and fat, and previous tests of salmon feed have consistently found PCB contamination. Getting wild caught fish is essential to avoiding PCBs, and one way to do that is to support community supported fisheries, or CSFs. Community supported fisheries aim to promote a positive relationship between fishermen, consumers, and the ocean by providing high-quality, locally caught seafood to members. CSF programs began as a method to help marine ecosystems recover from the effects of overfishing while maintaining a thriving fishing community. Many of them sell fish in farmer’s market, or have delivery systems in place for their local communities. To see where I shop for my fish, and how I make this lovely Chermoula fish recipe, click on my new video below :

Chermoula sauce:

  • 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 oven until fish is just cooked through, about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork.

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