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.

Tapenade, the french condiment which you might recognize from many a charcuterie board, is a lovely addition to any main course. It is packed with saltiness from the luscious combination of olives, capers, and anchovies and is rounded out by tangy lemon. Serve it on fish, chicken or vegetables to instantly elevate any meal or enjoy it on fresh bread or crackers. Here, I use flounder, but a similar white fish like halibut, sol, haddock, or catfish will work just fine. Flounder with green tapenade is quick and easy to prepare and accentuates all of those flavors.

Serve this dish on a bed of greens, with crusty bread, for a light, nourishing, and deeply satisfying weeknight meal. You can prepare flounder with green tapenade in a matter of minutes. 


for the green tapenade

  • 4-5 fillets of anchovies
  • ½ cup green olives, pitted
  • ½ cup parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

for the flounder

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

tapenade steps

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse 7-8 times for 2 seconds each until blended. You want to retain some texture and not totally puree the tapenade. Alternatively, you can finally chop each ingredient and mix it together by hand.

flounder and assembly steps

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, salt, and pepper. Place the flounder, skin-side down in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 4 minutes, spooning the sauce over the fish to evenly coat.

Serve the tapenade over the fish with a side of mixed raw or sautéed greens and crusty bread.