Black Bass Couscous

This recipe is a real tribute to Persian cuisine. The dried lime peel in the Isphahan N.1 spice blend has an intense, sweet-citrusy flavor that enhances both the couscous and the quick marinade for fish.

Isphahan N1 – Recipe from Gavin Kaysen, New York City

Makes 4 servings


2 Tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp Isphahan N1 spice blend
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest of one lemon
4 skin-on black bass or branzino fillets, about 4 ounces each
1 white onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
1 fennel bulb, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cups instant couscous
Finely grated zest of one orange


• Marinate the fish: In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the Isphahan spice blend, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the lemon zest. Place the marinade and the fish in a large, resealable plastic bag or baking dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

• Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and white pith from the lemon and orange. Working over a bowl, cut between the membranes to release the citrus segments. Discard any seeds and cut the citrus segments into 1/8 inch pieces. Squeeze the remaining juice into the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

• Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

• In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

• Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer and add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of Isphahan and the turmeric; season with salt and pepper. Once the vegetables are ready, add the simmering stock and couscous. Stir and turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and set aside for 5 minutes, then gently fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

• Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and place on the baking sheet, skin side down. Bake the fish until cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes.

• Divide the couscous among four plates and top each with a piece of fish. Spoon some of the citrus dressing over the fish and serve.