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Date-Stuffed Fish

Date-Stuffed Fish
Pat Tanumihardja for NPR /

Shad stuffed with dates is one of Moroccan cookery's greatest dishes. Shad, however, is hard to find outside the East Coast and is extremely bony. This simplified version is adapted from Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting Dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa (Mitchell Beazley 2002) by Diana Henry. While her recipe called for 4 mackerel at 6 ounces each, I used 3 trout about 8 ounces each. Just divide the stuffing accordingly. The sweetness of the dates, the crunchy almonds and spicy harissa (Moroccan chili paste) all complement the delicate flavor of white fish. Harissa is available at ethnic grocers or specialty stores. It's also super easy to make; just find a recipe online. Serve with couscous.

Makes 4 servings

4 (6-ounce) mackerels (trout or snapper are good options, too), scaled and gutted

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Chopped cilantro, for garnish


1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

10 moist dates, pitted and roughly chopped

Scant 1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and crushed

1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, finely chopped

Finely grated rind and juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon harissa or other chili paste

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the stuffing, stir and cook the onions in oil in a small skillet until they turn translucent. Tip them into a bowl and allow to cool. Add the remaining ingredients except the butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Break the butter into small pieces and mix it into the stuffing with your hands. Bring everything together into a ball.

Rinse the fish and pat dry. Using a small sharp knife, cut along the inside of the fish beside the backbone to gently open the tail end to give you a bigger pocket for stuffing.

Pour a little olive oil into the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Season the inside of the fish with salt and pepper. Divide the stuffing into 4 portions and fill each fish. Arrange the stuffed fish in the dish. Drizzle oil on the outside of each fish and rub with ginger and cinnamon, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Garnish with chopped cilantro.

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