brown sugar

Harissa, the Tunisian spice mix of hot chili peppers, is extremely versatile. For this sweet and spicy flounder, harissa unites with sweet brown sugar for a tasty paste that envelops the fish while it bakes on a bed of spinach. I used flounder, but really any white fish will work for this.

As the harissa brown sugar paste cooks atop this sweet and spicy flounder, it caramelizes and crisps into a candy-like consistency with a kick from the harissa. Serve sweet and spicy flounder with a generous helping of coconut sesame rice and you can do no wrong.

serves 4


for the fish

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup harissa
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
  • 4, 4-ounce flounder fillets

for the coconut sesame rice + assembly

  • 2 cups short or medium grain rice, rinsed
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 10 ounces water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon scallions, sliced

fish steps

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, harissa, tomato paste, black pepper, and salt. Mix until it is evenly combined then set aside. Spread the spinach along the bottom of a large baking dish and place the fish fillets on top of the spinach. Evenly divide and spread the sweet and spicy paste across the top of the fish fillets. 

Bake for 25 minutes until the fish is white and no longer translucent. It should easily flake with a fork. Serve with coconut rice.

coconut rice + assembly steps

Place the rice, coconut milk, water, salt, and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed but there is still a slight stickiness to the rice. Remove the rice from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes then remove the lid and use a fork to fluff and rice and mix in the sesame seeds. Serve fish over rice and garnish with parsley and scallions.