I dreamt one night of a Moroccon kasbah, perched high above an enchanted city. The sentinel’s tower was hardly stark, illuminated in hues of cinnamon and tangerine. His food was served on earthenware with careful, handcrafted nuances in the surface, like a pond ripple nearly stilled…
Do you find that the faint, lingering memories of a dream come alive through waking encounters? When my friend Jen handed me a copy of her new favorite cookbook Mourad: New Moroccan, I felt a recipe brewing inside me like magic.
She was right when she cautioned “this book is intimidating!” The love, passion and preparation concerning Moroccan food is no small detail. This is a cuisine oozing with life! I was sort of smitten with my own accomplishment of even having made preserved lemons for crying out loud.
I spent a few days sifting through the gorgeous recipes, pictures and Mourad’s powerful story of learning to cook through his childhood memory and surviving ancestors. And then suddenly Heather was coming over for dinner and I could dilly-dally no more! I picked and plowed forward! The preserved lemon and parsley motifs through this wholesome dish are enchanting – try it, and you’ll see why.
This tilapia recipe is inspired by Mourad's Red Chermoula (p.89), a sauce he describes as a "seriously craveable flavor combination." It's true. I find myself wanting to devour this sauce over and over again, in so many different ways.
- Tomato puree - 1 cup
- Parsley - 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- Cilantro - 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- Extra virgin olive oil - 1 tablespoon
- Lemon rind - 1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon rind
- Garlic - 1/2 tablespoon, minced
- Smoked paprika - 1 teaspoon
- Sweet paprika - 1/2 teaspoon
- Cumin - 1 teaspoon, ground
- Black pepper - 1/8 teaspoon, freshly ground
- Sea salt - Pinch of sea salt
- Carrots - 1 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
- Fennel - 1 cup fennel cut into matchsticks
- Tilapia - 2 filets tilapia
- Whisk together the tomato puree, parsley, cilantro, olive oil, lemon rind, garlic, smoked and sweet paprika, cumin, pepper and salt.
- Rinse the tilapia filets and pat them dry. Place them in a container and pour half the sauce over the tilapia, ideally submerging the filets in the sauce. Let the tilapia marinate in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours, or as little as 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Put the vegetables in a baking dish and layer them evenly along the bottom. Toss the other half of the sauce with the vegetables. Cover the baking dish with a lid or foil. Place the vegetables in the oven and bake them for 25 minutes, or until the are fork tender.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 375.
- Remove the tilapia from the refrigerator and rest the filets on top of the vegetables. Be sure to pour the sauce over the filets and vegetables too!
- Cover the baking dish and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the thickest part of the fish is flaky and white when pulled apart with a fork.
- Serve the Red Chermoula Tilapia with Carrots & Fennel over or alongside the Israeli Couscous.