Improvisation: Fish & Couscous for Dinner

In our household, dinner rarely goes according to plan. Even if I am diligent about planning, inevitably I forget something when I grocery shop. On this particular occasion, however, I had two specific recipes in hand as I set off to the market, and still things took at unexpected twist.

This month’s Bon Appetit has a number of delicious looking and sounding dishes and I had narrowed down the dinner choices to the cover recipe, Slow Cooked Salmon with Cherry Tomatoes and Couscous, and Fish Fillets and Tomatoes, Squash and Basil. Since I couldn’t make up my mind on which to prepare, I decided to let the store choose for me. Whatever fish was the freshest would dictate the dinner selection for the evening.

As luck would have it, I found no fresh salmon, cod, tilapia or halibut — even though I went to two different markets. I don’t think Sunday is the best day to find good fish in a land-locked state!

Since Dover sole was the only choice that looked decent to eat, I decided to improvise and meld the two recipes. Here’s where I landed.

Dover Sole with Couscous

Step 1: Roast the Tomatoes

Roast about 2 cups of cherry tomatoes. Slice in half, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour olive oil over the top and bake for 13-15′ at 400 degrees. Set aside to cool.

Step 2: Prepare the Fish

Using either parchment paper or aluminum foil (the latter isn’t has pretty for serving but much quicker/easier to fold), place a piece of fish on top — enough for one serving, about 6 ounces. (Though I used dover sole, I think cod or halibut would have been an even better choice). Season with salt and pepper according to your taste. On top of the piece of fish,  place the following:

  • Handful of asparagus, sliced thin
  • About 1/8 cup of sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 TBSP fresh basil, diced
  • 1 TBSP diced shallots
  • 1 TBSP white wine
  • 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • Dollop of butter
  • Optional: Other vegetables (e.g., squash, red pepper) or fresh herbs (e.g., thyme, parsley)

Fold aluminum foil/parchment so that fish is self-contained for steaming. Make as many fish “packets” as you are serving for dinner. Bake at 400 for 10′.

Step 3: Prepare Couscous

While fish is cooking, add 2 cups of Israeli couscous to 2 cups of chicken broth. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 7  minutes. Add 1 TBSP of butter and about 1 TBSP olive oil and spoon into a bowl. Add roasted tomatoes and 1/4 cup of chopped parsley and mix. Season with salt and pepper and juice from half a lemon.

Then serve!

For dessert, we had fresh fruit with chocolate fondue, a special treat that seems more elegant than the effort. And as Luke would say, “It’s fruit. It’s good for you!”


Melinda Hinson