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Seared Halibut with Couscous

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Servings: 4

Searing is done over high heat and works best in an uncoated fry pan, such as cast iron or stainless steel. Manufacturers of nonstick pans generally advise against cooking over high heat. If you use a nonstick pan, keep the heat level at medium-high, cook for a few minutes more than directed in the recipe and don’t expect as much of a seared effect.


  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup instant couscous
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 4 halibut steaks, about 2 lb. total
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup green olives, pitted and sliced


Make the couscous and season the fish
In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the water and 1/2 tsp. of the salt and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous and return to a boil. Cover tightly and remove from the heat. Let stand until the couscous absorbs the water, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 tsp. of the cumin, 1/4 tsp. of the salt and a pinch of pepper. Season both sides of the halibut with the spice mixture.

Prepare the sauce
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the lemon juice, 3 Tbs. of the oil, the paprika, ginger, remaining 1/4 tsp. cumin, remaining 1 1/4 tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt. Remove the sauce from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Cook the fish and finish the dish
In a heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Add the halibut steaks and cook until browned on the first side, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook until opaque around the edges, about 3 minutes more.

Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the lemon zest and olives to the sauce. Arrange the halibut on individual plates, spoon the couscous alongside, drizzle with the sauce and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Seafood, by Jay Harlow (Oxmoor House, 2007).