Saffron-scented Vegetable Couscous with North African-spiced Halibut

By • January 6, 2010 10 Comments

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Author Notes: This dish has a lovely combination of flavors -- saffron couscous is combined with cauliflower and fennel; bright herbs and olives; warmly-spiced fish; and a splash of tart lemon juice. The fish marinade riffs on couscous' North African origins, using some of the ingredients often found in the Ras Al Hanout spice blend, along with garlic and lemon in an oil-based paste. The savory-sweet combination compliments the slightly fusty edge in the couscous from the saffron and fennel. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients -- it'll just take a few minutes to rifle through your spice cabinet. There are admittedly a few steps, but the result transforms some common ingredients into an exciting dish. deensiebat

Serves 4


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, presed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 pound halibut


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and cut into bite-sized wedges
  • 1/2 small cauliflower, cored and broken into bite-sized florets
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous)
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup green olives, quartered
  • 1 handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Assemble the halibut marinade: in a bowl large enough to accommodate the halibut, mix together the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and spices. Taste, adding more salt if desired. Add the halibut, spooning the marinade over the top. Marinate at room temperature for ~30 minutes (the marinade has citrus, so you don't want to over-marinate for fear of mushy fish).
  3. When the fish has marinated, transfer it into a baking dish. Scrape out any remaining spice paste from the marinade dish, and spread thickly on top of the fillets. Bake until the fish is done and flakes easily, 25-30 minutes.
  4. While the halibut is baking, prepare the vegetable couscous. Heat a large pot over a high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then add the fennel and cauliflower. Sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to caramelize and develop light brown spots. Add a few tablespoons water and cover to steam, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender (2-5 minutes). Remove from pot, and place in a large serving bowl.
  5. In the same pot, add the remaining tablespoon olive oil. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until the couscous toasts and darkens slightly (just a couple minutes). Add 2 1/2 cups water, crumble in the saffron, and add the salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower the heat just enough to maintain a simmer. Cook until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender, ~10 minutes.
  6. While the couscous is cooking, assemble the remaining ingredients. Add the olives, parsley, and cilantro to the serving dish with the cooked cauliflower and fennel. When the couscous is done, tip it into the bowl with the herbs and vegetables, and toss well. Scoop the couscous onto plates, and top with the marinated halibut. Serve with lemon wedges.

More Great Recipes: Halibut|Fish & Seafood|Side Dishes|Entrees|Vegetables

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