1 lemon, zest and juice
1 Tbsp. Za’atar
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
½ tsp salt
1 cup Israeli couscous or pearl pasta
¼ cup olive oil
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium cucumber or about 8 oz. by weight, half peeled and then diced
5 sprigs mint, leaves picked and torn into small pieces
5 sprigs basil, leaves picked and torn into small pieces
10 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
4 6 oz. Alaska pollock fillets
This dish can be made with either skin on or off fillets. If making with the skin on, be sure to crisp the skin thoroughly and serve skin side up. If using skinless fillets, sear the white side of the fish to get the best color (the side with the blood line will be facing up on the initial sear). This meal is perfect for mid to late summer because the pasta salad can be made in advance and kept at room temperature. The heat from the fish will soften the butter, allowing that tangy Za’atar flavor to mix with the fish and the pasta. If avoiding gluten, this salad can be made successfully with white or brown rice as well. – Chef Abra Berens
Bring a medium pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
In a bowl, combine the butter, lemon zest, Za’atar, and salt. Beat with a spoon until well combined. Taste, adding more salt if desired. Transfer to a container or roll into a log with plastic wrap and chill at least 20 minutes.
Boil the couscous until tender (about 7 minutes) and then drain away the water. Immediately dress the couscous with the olive oil and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon juice, and herbs and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
Blot the pollock fillets dry with a paper towel and then season with a big pinch of salt. In a medium frying pan, heat a glug of neutral oil until almost smoking hot. Place the fish either skin side down or white side down if using skin off. Gently press the fish to make good contact with the pan. Pan fry the fish until the fish develops a good crust and can be moved easily when nudged with a spatula (about 5 minutes). If it doesn’t move, let it sear longer.
When it is able to be moved easily, flip the fish and sear the other side until the fish is cooked through (about 3 minutes). Remove from the heat.
Transfer the couscous salad to plates or a serving platter. Nestle fish into the salad and top with 1-2 tablespoons of the Za’atar butter either as a dollop or cut into coins.
For a dairy fix, add crumbled feta.