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Seared Striped Bass Moroccan Style With Roasted Red Pepper, Couscous, Black Olive Broth and Saffron Oil

1 large red pepper, roasted (may be prepared ahead)

4 1/2 cups boiling, salted water
4 1/2 cups dry couscous
2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil - about 1 tablespoon according to Alauzen
Salt and pepper to taste

Saffron Oil (may be prepared ahead):
1 teaspoon dried saffron threads
3 ounces extra-virgin olive oil

6 6-ounce, skin on striped bass fillets
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil as needed
2 cups chicken broth or fish stock
6 tablespoons Kalamata or Nicoise olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

To roast pepper: Wash red pepper, dry and roast on grill or under broiler, turning frequently until the outside is charred. Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 20 minutes, then remove skin and seeds. Pass under water to quickly rinse, but do not hold under water. Cut into small pieces.

To make couscous: Pour water over couscous in a shallow bowl. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Add olive oil, roasted diced pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Fluff. Cover and keep warm.

To make saffron oil: Heat oil in small saucepan. When oil is hot, not smoking, add saffron and steep off heat until oil turns orange-yellow, about 30 minutes.

To prepare fish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

With a sharp knife, score fish skin three times diagonally. Season fish with salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan. Add enough vegetable oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil begins to smoke, place fish skin side down and sear skin until golden brown. Turn fish and lightly sear second side. Transfer to a cookie sheet, skin side up, and bake in preheated 400-degree oven 5 to 8 minutes. Fish should be flaky but still moist. Do not overcook.

Return frying pan to stove. Add broth or stock and reduce by half over moderately high heat. Add olives and chopped parsley - blend well.

To plate: Pack warm couscous into a small mold or ramekin. Unmold in bowl or plate. Arrange with fish resting on one end on the couscous. Finish with sauce on top. Garnish with a touch of saffron oil. Makes 6 servings.

Chef Greg Alauzen with Jane Citron

Thursday, February 03, 2000

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