Mediterranean-Style Harissa-Spiced Cod with Polenta, with Fennel-Orange Salad

Pacific Cod

by Cat, October 2017 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

As a person of Scandinavian descent, I love cod (and lutefisk made from cod). My usual way to prepare this fish is to bake it with butter, dill, salt and pepper (See Basic Baked Cod or Halibut). I never thought about using a spicy seasoning with this fish, but this recipe sounded so good, I decided I need to give it a try.

The first time I had harissa – a North African hot-spicy seasoning paste, it was so hot I felt like I needed to call the local fire department. So I will use a mildly-warm pepper for my first test.

See also: 1. Fish and Seafood Menu; 2. Mediterranean Menu; 3. Herbs & Spices: Blends;4. Culturing and Fermentation Menu

Mediterranean-Style Harissa-Spiced Cod with Polenta

This recipe and the fennel-orange salad that follows, are adapted from one in Fine Cooking’s Make it Tonite for October 6, 2017 (1), originally by Ronne Day, Fine Cooking #129.

The original recipe makes the polenta from scratch, but you could certainly use pre-made polenta and heat it. If you make it from scratch, be sure to use Organic or guaranteed GMO-free (such as Bob’s Red Mill brand) cornmeal. If you buy it pre-made, use Organic only, to avoid the GMOs.

The original recipe states: “Baking cod in melted butter adds a richness to the fish that nicely balances the heat from the harissa, a North African paste made of ground dried chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices.

Harissa is a spicy North African paste made of ground dried chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices like coriander and cumin. You might find it at your grocery store or a specialty market or you can make it yourself to just the level of heat you desire; make it at least a week before you plan to use it. I recommend starting with mild chiles the first time because full-heat harissa is extremely hot. See my recipe on  Herbs & Spices: Curries & Blends, which gives options for amount of desired heat.

The original recipe serves 4, but I’ve modified it to serve 2

Ingredients & Equipment (2 servings):

  • Polenta:
  • ¾ tsp crushed whole coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • ½ cup Organic or non-GMO cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cups filtered water
  • ¼ tsp. finely grated lemon zest (use 1 lemon for both the zest and the juice for the cod)
  • unrefined sea salt or Kosher salt
  • Cod:
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted real butter
  • 2 each 6-oz. pieces cod
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp harissa paste
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Garnish/serve:
  • 1 tsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ fresh lemon or preserved lemon, cut into wedges
  • Equipment:
  • 1-2 quart saucepan (for polenta)
  • small saucepan (for melting butter)
  • baking dish (9×13-inch is used for original 4-serving recipe; a smaller one is used for my 2-serving recipe)
  • 2 shallow bowls or plates (for serving)


  1. Harissa: prepare harissa paste (see Herbs & Spices: Blends; scroll down to Harissa for instructions. You may want to make this a day ahead.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400°F.
  3. Polenta: Heat saucepan over medium heat. Add coriander and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 3 cups of water, the lemon zest, and 1 tsp. salt; turn the heat up to medium high. Whisk in the cornmeal and cook, stirring often, until thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. (If the polenta gets too thick, loosen with a little hot water.)
  4. Cod: Meanwhile, melt the butter in small saucepan over low heat (or set over a gas stove’s pilot light). Season fish lightly with salt and pepper and arrange in a baking dish with space between each piece.
  5. Remove the butter from the heat, stir in the harissa and lemon juice, and pour it over the fish.
  6. Bake: basting every 5 minutes or so, until cooked through (the fish will flake easily), about 15 minutes. If necessary, cover with foil to keep warm.
  7. Serve: Divide polenta among 2 shallow bowls/plates. Top with the fish and spoon the butter over the fish. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with the lemon wedges.
  8. Accompany with the Fennel-Orange Salad (below), and a small bite of fermented vegetable (such as fermented onion/garlic. See Culturing and Fermentation Menu).

Fennel-Orange Salad

  • Fennel bulb
  • red onion
  • orange or tangerine segments
  • seeded black olives
  • bunch of fresh mint leaves
  • Organic lemons (for juice and optional zest
  • unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Thinly slice fennel bulb (white part) and onion horizontally into crescents.
  2. If olives are large, cut them in half or thick slices.
  3. Peel orange/tangerine, and divide into segments.
  4. Slice mint leaves
  5. Dressing: Grate zest of lemon(s) (optional), and squeeze their juice into a jar. Add salt, pepper, and optional zest. Add some of the sliced mint leaves, reserving remaining leaves for garnish. Shake or blend well. Add olive oil and shake well again. Alternately, place lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper in a blender, then add olive oil in a slow, steady stream while blender is running.
  6. To serve: Toss veggie/fruit mix with dressing, then garnish with remaining sliced mint leaves.


  1. Fine Cooking’s Eat It Tonite recipe:
  2. Fine Cooking: Harissa recipe,

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