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Moroccan Fish Tagine with Quinoa and Olives

Moroccan Fish Tagine with Quinoa and Olives

As regular Stephencooks readers know, I'm always looking for ways to take advantage of the fresh seafood that arrives every day at the docks here in Portland, Maine. A couple of days ago I picked up a beautiful fresh-caught hake fillet. My favorite way to prepare delicate fish fillets like hake is to poach them gently in an aromatic liquid and then make a sauce from the poaching liquid to serve with rice. (See for example: Poached Cod in Lemon Fumé Broth, Haddock Fillets with Cranberry-Ginger Butter Sauce, Haddock Fillets With Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Onions and Pancetta -- or browse for others on the Seafood Recipe Page.)

A tagine is a traditional North Africa dish, named after the pot in which it is traditionally cooked. The basic idea is that meat is slowly braised in an herbed sauce. A fish tagine is is just a variation on my poaching routine: the fish is braised in an aromatic sauce, although since fish cooks quickly, it doesn't take very long. Tagines are usually served with couscous but this version uses quinoa instead. (Quinoa is a grain-like seed that closely resembles couscous when cooked but has only two-thirds the carbohydrate content of an equivalent serving of couscous and three-fourths the calories.)

This dish is a simple and fast way to bring a change of pace to a mid-week meal using ingredients -- in addition to the fish -- that are usually on hand in a reasonably well-stocked kitchen. If you have more time or a particularly well-provisioned larder you could consider some of the traditional couscous additions: preserved lemon, raisins, cooked onions or chopped toasted nuts. 

Moroccan Fish Tagine with Quinoa and Olives

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Serves 4


  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa (substitute: rice, couscous or bulger wheat)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 12 ounces tomato, peeled and chopped (substitute: canned stewed tomatoes, with their juice)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon salt-preserved capers, rinsed and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fish broth (substitute: 1/4 cup dry white wine + 1/4 cup water) 
  • 1 pound hake fillet (or any whitefish fillet: cod, haddock, flounder, etc.)
  • 24 green Moroccan olives, pitted
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice from one-half lemon
  • Zest of one lemon (optional garnish)


1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir in the quinoa. Adjust the heat to maintain a moderate simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and keep warm, covered. 

2. Toast the cumin in a dry pan on high heat, stirring, until it starts to darken. Grind the cumin in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

3. Place cumin, olive oil, garlic, ginger, tomato, capers, cinnamon and fish broth in a skillet large enough to hold the fish in one layer. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 - 12 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. 

4. Meanwhile, cut the fish into serving pieces. When the tomato mixture is cooked place the fish and the olives in the pan, turn the fish to coat with the sauce and cook gently for about five minutes, uncovered.

To serve, remove the fish from the sauce with a slotted spoon. (Adjust the seasoning of the sauce if necessary with salt and pepper.) Place a mound of quinoa on the serving plate, then spoon on the sauce. Top with the fish and a squeeze of lemon juice. Garnish with lemon zest if desired. 

Nutritional Estimate: 4 Servings. Per serving: 278 Calories; 25 g Total Carbs; 4 g Dietary Fiber; 2 g Sugars; 6 g Fat; 64 mg Cholesterol; 429 mg Sodium; 27  g Protein. Weight Watchers: 5 points.

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