For this dish, it's best to use large shrimp and thick chunks of skinless cod, sea bass, halibut, monkfish or swordfish. Preserved lemons are available at Middle Eastern groceries. Here, large pieces of the preserved lemon peel are baked right into the bisteeya; these pieces are not really meant to be eaten. More Amazing Seafood Recipes

Mohammed Boussaoud
May 1999


Credit: © Quentin Bacon

Recipe Summary





Instructions Checklist
  • In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Transfer the tomato sauce to a blender. Add the cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and cayenne and the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil and blend until smooth.

  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the vermicelli and cook until barely al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain well, shaking off any excess water. Transfer the vermicelli to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup of the charmoula. Refrigerate until chilled and almost all of the sauce has been absorbed by the vermicelli, about 1 hour. In another bowl, toss the sliced fish with the remaining charmoula and refrigerate.

  • Heat a large skillet. Add the spinach by the handful and cook over high heat, turning with tongs, until thoroughly wilted. Transfer the spinach to a colander and let cool. Squeeze the spinach dry and then finely shred it.

  • Preheat the oven to 375°. Brush a 10- or 12-inch pizza or paella pan with olive oil. Unroll the phyllo sheets and cover them with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out. Lightly brush 10 sheets of the phyllo with olive oil and lay them across the pizza pan in every direction to completely cover the bottom of the pan with some overhang. Spread half of the vermicelli evenly over the phyllo and cover with the marinated fish in an even layer, separating any slices of fish that stick together. Arrange the preserved lemon rind quarters on the fish and top with the shrimp and spinach. Spread the remaining vermicelli over the spinach.

  • Brush the remaining sheets of phyllo with olive oil and layer them over the bisteeya. Fold all of the overhanging edges under the bisteeya, as if tucking in sheets. Using a sharp knife, make a 2-inch slit in the top. Brush the top with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with soda water and bake for about half an hour, or until golden and crisp. Carefully transfer the bisteeya to a large round platter, cut into wedges and serve hot or warm.

Make Ahead

The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 3 hours.

Suggested Pairing

A dry, aromatic white will play off the bisteeya's sweet spiciness. Consider a Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc from France.