Chermoula, a garlicky North African sauce, is often paired with fish and shellfish in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. I discovered it when traveling and embraced it as my own. I’m not a real chile lover, so I only add one to my mix, but feel free to add more if you like to feel your tongue on fire. Chermoula is one of those cook’s specialties that can be made with any number of combinations of herbs and spices, but it almost always has garlic, oil, and cilantro. It is a very tasty sauce to have on hand; it keeps well and adds a kick to grilled meats as well as fish. It is particularly suited to offsetting the rich fattiness of salmon.
6 (7-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
Canola oil for brushing
Chermoula (recipe follows)
Lemon wedges for serving, optional
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red hot chile, stemmed and seeded
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground toasted cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1. Preheat and oil the grill or preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F).
2. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the skin side of the salmon with canola oil; if roasting the salmon in the oven, lightly coat a baking sheet with canola oil and do not oil the fish. Generously coat the flesh side of the salmon with ½ cup of the chermoula.
3. If grilling, transfer the salmon, skin-side-down, to the hot grill, cover, and grill for about 12 minutes or until the skin is crisp and the salmon is barely cooked – the center should remain almost raw. If necessary, halfway through the cooking, carefully transfer the fish to the cooler side of the grill.
4. If roasting in the oven, transfer the chermoula-coated fish to the prepared baking sheet, place in the preheated oven, and roast for about 10 minutes or until cooked as above.
5. Serve immediately with a bowl of chermoula and lemon wedges on the side.
NOTE: For an entirely different look and texture, mix about ¼ fresh bread crumbs with the ½ cup of chermoula. It will become a thick paste which can be molded to the top of each piece of salmon, making a crisp, spicy topping. If you do this, it is best to roast the salmon.
1. Combine the garlic with the chile, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, and orange zest with ½ cup cool water in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process to a smooth purée.
2. Scrape the purée into a medium saucepan. Add the oil, vinegar, tomato paste, cumin, and paprika, stirring vigorously to blend.
3. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes or until the mixture comes to a simmer.
4. Season with salt and cayenne and cover loosely. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes or until it is a sauce-like consistency. If too thick, add water, a tablespoonful at a time.
5. Transfer to a nonreactive container. Set aside to cool. When cool, use as directed in a specific recipe or store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
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