In the Mood for Fish Cooked in Harrisa Spiced Roasted Tomato Sauce with Charred Lemons and Roasted Garlic?
This is my first time cooking barramundi and its sweet taste and medium firm texture worked out perfectly for this recipe. I’m now most definitely a fan of this fish. It cooked in a tomato sauce fragrant with harissa spice, garlic and lemon. I cooked a pot of pearl couscous to go with it and it was perfect for soaking up some of that sauce.
I roasted a head of garlic for this. And even though it’s not strictly necessary, those soft unctuous cloves were wonderful when squeezed on top of each serving. I also broiled wedges of lemons and added them to the pot. Again, they’re not absolutely necessary, but I love to eat softly charred pieces of lemons and think they added a beautifully tart element to the overall flavor profile. If you don’t enjoy eating the lemons, you can squeeze their juices into the sauce.
This recipe came about because the day before I had roasted a tray of seasoned Roma tomatoes and wanted to use some of them for this sauce. I will include the recipe for the tomatoes, but you can substitute a 15 oz. can of whole tomatoes and still have a delicious outcome. I regularly roast tomatoes in one form or another because they’re so versatile to have on hand. I make sandwiches with them, add them to a plate of burrata, pasta, etc. The tomatoes need to be fully ripe, but they don’t have to be the very best in order to perform well when roasted. For these particular tomatoes I chose to roast them long and slow in order to intensify their flavors and semi dry them out.
The sauce contains fresh thyme sprigs and a dried harissa spice blend. While harissa paste is most familiar, the dry spice blend is wonderful to have on hand and its flavors add depth and interest to the sauce. My son suggested adding some ajwain to the sauce. I realize this isn’t an ingredient everyone is likely to have on hand, but we use them when making mango chutneys and other Indian dishes. The tiny dried fruits are seed-like in appearance and have a strong flavor reminiscent of oregano and anise. I only used 1/2 teaspoon, so you could easily substitute crushed fennel seeds or even dried oregano.
After briefly cooking the sauce only long enough for the flavors to meld, I added the fish, which I’d cut into pieces. I was recently reminded of an article I read awhile ago about using finely grated dried shitake mushrooms as a coating on fish or to add extra umami flavor to other dishes. I gave it a whirl here and because I had plenty already going on in this recipe, I can’t be certain as to its effect. All I can tell you is the fish was delicious and I’ll try the grated mushrooms again on a simpler recipe in order to be able to really tell what it adds to the fish’s flavor. The cooked lemons and garlic were added to the pan and it was placed in the oven for 10 minutes. The fish was juicy and tender. The sauce? Well, we’ll be talking about this one for awhile and it most definitely will be repeated. I served it with pearl couscous.