Quick Fish Marinade– Herb Charmoula and Capers

Salmon Marinating with CapersFor those of you who, like me until recently, do not have the word charmoula in their regular culinary vocabulary, the simple ingredients contained in this marinade are worth knowing and putting together.

By way of background, charmoula is used in North African cuisines–Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian cooking. Many variations exist, but the basic recipe calls for cilantro, garlic, a tiny bit of olive oil, cumin, a touch of heat, and some lemon. Originally made into a paste using a mortar or pestle, recipes often direct putting all the ingredients into a blender or food processor. Sometimes it’s made into a rub. Charmoula is typically used with fish, although when paired with meat such as chicken, it is delicious.

Because fresh Sockeye salmon is available during Seattle summers at $12.99 a pound, I decided to use it with my marinade. Not only is Sockeye more affordable than King salmon, I also prefer its color and the increased flavor. I wanted to change up my usual grilling technique and instead oven-roast the fish using more of an oil-based “sauce.”  I gave the salmon a short marinade (you have to be careful with length of time in a marinade when using on fish–delicate white fish can come apart or actually “cook” in the marinade—think ceviche). Twenty to thirty minutes for my fairly robust salmon fillets was about right, given the inclusion of both lemon and caper juice.

My Version:

Charmoula Insert BetterI made my charmoula using several hand-chopped cups of mixed herbs, rather than just a few tablespoons (always opting for bonus nutrients), adding extra olive oil to make more of a liquid than a paste, and incorporating capers, a standard salmon pairing. A quick toast and grind of some cumin seeds, in less than five minutes, helped make this marinade far more tasty. I toasted extra cumin seeds to have in my cupboard ready to go in my next recipe. After 25 minutes in the marinade, the fish went into a 350 degree oven until done, about 12 minutes later.


Toast and grind cumin seeds if you have none available. Rinse and chop the cilantro and parsley and add to a medium-sized bowl with the ground cumin and the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.

Turn oven to 350.

Place salmon in bottom of the ceramic pan and pour the marinade over the fish. Let it marinate for about 25 minutes. Bake about 10-12 minutes depending on thickness of fillets. Do not overcook. It may take a few extra minutes—remember your salmon will continue cooking after you remove it from the oven.

Salmon Cooked with Capers

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