Fish Tagine with Walnut Chermoula

Fish Tagine with Walnut Chermoula

When this spicy stew is finished simmering and you remove the cover, you’ll be amazed at the aromas that will perfume your kitchen!  That’s the preserved lemons which add an exotic flavor.  You can buy a jar in well-stocked grocery stores or you can make them yourself.  In Morocco, a tagine is both the conical earthenware cooking vessel and the name for the stew cooked inside it.  If you don’t have a tagine cooking vessel, you can use a heavy cast-iron pan instead.  Serve with Israeli couscous or steamed white rice.    

Ingredients

For the Walnut Chermoula:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup roasted and chopped California walnuts

For the Fish:

  • 2 pounds sea bass, cod, black cod, halibut, salmon or other firm white fish fillets, skin and bones removed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, fresh or canned
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 preserved lemons, pulp removed, peel thinly sliced 

For the Quick Preserved Lemons:

  • 2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 4 lemons, quartered

For the Preserved Lemons:

  • 8 thick-skinned lemons, washed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, as needed

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, puree the cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, garlic, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper until smooth.  Add the walnuts and set aside.
  2. Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces and place in a bowl.  In a small bowl, mix together 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, olive oil, cilantro and garlic.  Rub the fish with the mixture.  Let sit in the refrigerator covered for 1 hour.
  3. Combine the tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoons salt.  Place half of the tomatoes, half of the bell pepper and half of the preserved lemons on the bottom of a tagine or heavy stewing pot.  Place the fish on top.  Top with the bell peppers, then preserved lemons and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 20 minutes. 
  4. To serve, spoon the fish, vegetables and sauce into soup bowls and place a spoonful of the Walnut Chermoula onto the top.

For the Quick Preserved Lemons:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Boil until lemon rinds are tender, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

For the Preserved Lemons:

  1. Cut each lemon into quarters from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, taking care to leave the four pieces joined at the stem end.  Sprinkle the insides of the lemon with salt.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of a canning jar and pack the lemons into the jar, pushing them down and adding more salt as you go.  Add the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves between the lemons.  If the level of lemon juice doesn't come to the top of the jar, add extra freshly squeezed juice to almost the top of the jar.  Leave some airspace before closing the jar.
  3. Allow the lemons to sit in a warm place for 1 month, turning the jar upside-down periodically to distribute the salt and juices.
  4. To use the lemons, remove from the brine and discard the pulp.  Wash the peel and use.  Some white crystals will form on the top of the lemons in the jar, which is normal, so do not discard the lemons.  They can be stored at room temperature or refrigerated and will keep for 1 year.