Mediterranean Flavors

Delicious heart-healthy home cooking for summer in Texas

The happy, tanned residents of Mediterranean countries have long enjoyed the earthy, robust flavors and proven health benefits of their native recipes. Ingredients like fresh fish from coastal waters, tangy feta cheeses, Kalamata olives fresh-picked from the branch and good olive oil pressed from a nearby crop come together to make perfect, light, heart-healthy meals. Simplicity in preparation paired with quality ingredients is the centerpiece of the Mediterranean diet.
     This dish was inspired by our trip to Spain and Tangier in 2010. I serve it in individual white petite gratin dishes aside a bed of nutty, sweet couscous to make a delicious home-cooked meal that can be dressed up for a dinner party or served on your Tuesday night dinner table at home. I make it often for both guests and family.
     Summer is here, and it’s the perfect time to infuse your table with the tastes of the Mediterranean. This flavorful dish will make your guests think you’ve been cooking all day.

Moroccan Swordfish With Couscous, Toasted Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
Moroccan Swordfish (serves 4)

4, 6 ounces swordfish steaks
2 tablespoons olive oil for
4 tablespoons harissa for marinade (A Moroccan red pepper sauce. I use Mina brand from World Market.)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese (You can buy pre-crumbled or cut small pieces from a brick.)
32 pitted Kalamata olives, drained
Olive oil for drizzling

Place olive oil and harissa into a gallon-size baggie and mix together. Add swordfish steaks to the mixture, being sure to cover all sides. Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Toast the pine nuts (instructions on next page) while the fish is marinating.
After the pine nuts are done, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the fish from the marinade and place one piece of swordfish in each of the four individual gratin dishes (or place all four pieces in one oven-proof baking dish). If you prefer less spicy foods, simply rub off a small amount of the marinade before cooking. The harissa loses much of its spiciness during cooking.
Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over each piece of fish. Sprinkle each piece of fish with 1 ounce crumbled feta cheese. Top with 8 Kalamata olives, placing some directly onto the fish and the remaining olives next to the fish in the gratin dish. Cook at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
While the fish is in the oven, prepare the couscous.

Couscous With Toasted Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins
3 cups uncooked couscous (made per package instructions; you will have leftovers making this amount)
½ cup unsalted pine nuts (toasted, see below)
½ cup golden raisins (Sun-Maid)

To toast the pine nuts: Pre-heat a dry skillet on low-medium heat, add pine nuts and swirl or toss continuously until nuts are lightly browned and the nutty scent rises from the pan — about 2 -3 minutes. Remove nuts from the pan immediately and cool in a small bowl. Be careful not to burn them. They brown very quickly. You can also bake them in a 375-degree oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly.

To make the couscous: Prepare couscous according to package directions (typically takes only 5 minutes). To the cooked couscous, add the cooled toasted pine nuts and golden raisins and stir to blend. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

I like to serve a green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and balsamic vinaigrette on the plate with this dish. But any green salad or your favorite green veggie will do.

Plating: Place each individual gratin dish directly from the oven onto a dinner plate. Serve the couscous and salad or veggie alongside the gratin dish. Garnish the plate with sprigs of fresh parsley and serve.| by Nancy Farrar | photography by Alex Lepe |