When it comes to food, I’ve always preferred the stuffed over non-stuffed. Not that Dover sole served over lemon-caper-garlic couscous wouldn’t still be delicious. But Dover sole stuffed with couscous? Way more fun to make, serve, and eat. Bonus: it ensures a little couscous makes it into each lemony bite of flaky fish.
I first became aware of this rolled-and-stuffed preference as a kid during our seemingly (but probably not actually) once-weekendly dinners of grilled steak, potatoes, and vegetable something-or-another. Up until that point, I was just as militant about keeping different foods separated on my plate as I was about making sure that my tucked-in shirt (I was a kid; tucked-in was trendy back then, I swear) created absolutely no lumps or bumps in my pants.
One day, while my attention was focused elsewhere, steak wandered over to fraternize with the mashed potatoes. And I wanted to cry probably shed at least a silent tear or two. But then I realized something: the mess on my place actually tasted good!
Then some salad joined the duo, and soon I was stuffing a little bit of everything into a hollowed out dinner roll. How magnificent – a taste of each part of the meal in every bite! Quite a few years later, some lucky friends of mine can tell you how much more enticing old favorites (e.g., cupcakes and pizza) become once stuffed (stay tuned) or rolled up.
And now, fish rolls. Also known as rollatine, braciole, and involtini, these Dover sole fillets stuffed with couscous look much more time-consuming than they actually are. Their shape brings a touch of fun to the meal, and they can even have a finger foody quality if you choose to keep the toothpicks in after cooking.
The lemony couscous provides a nice texture to the dish and offers a healthier alternative to breadcrumbs, while the lemon juice and capers brighten up the meal and compliment the flavors of the fish and the squash. And oh the summer squash … so beautifully colorful at the market that I just couldn’t resist snatching up a yellow patty pan squash and some zucchini. (But be sure not to overcook the squash, lest it turn what should be a bright, colorful, summery bed for the fish rolls into a sad, unappetizing mess of mush.)
Pretty and light, this meal tastes delicious served hot or at room temperature, and is perfect for eating on, oh … I don’t know … your new blue mosaic patio table on a 75-degree day in beautiful San Francisco? Yes. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
Notes on substitutions: In place of the Dover sole – which happened to be wild, never-frozen, and on sale at my market – you can also substitute swordfish or any other fish of your choice. Just make sure it’s thinly sliced, easily rolled up, and holds together when cooking (i.e., it doesn’t turn into super flaky taco-appropriate fare once cooked).
Couscous-Stuffed Dover Sole atop Summer Squash
2/3 c. dry couscous
1 c. water
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. capers, chopped
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
pinch of salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 to 3/4 lb. Dover sole, very thinly sliced and halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. summer squash (zucchini, patty pan, yellow crookneck), diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. curry powder
pinch of salt and pepper
In small pot, boil water. Add couscous, remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, then stir in juice of half a lemon, garlic, capers, parsley, salt, and red pepper flakes. (Note: this couscous recipe makes about twice as much as you need for generously stuffing the fish; I stored the other half in the refrigerator for the next day’s lunch, but you could also serve it as a side dish to supplement the sauteed squash.)
Dice summer squash, and toss in 1 Tbsp. olive oil, salt, pepper, and curry powder. Set aside.
Place approximately 2 Tbsp. of couscous mixture on narrowest end of each half of Dover sole fillet. Roll fillet so that couscous remains in the center of the roll, and fasten closed with a toothpick (I forgot to grab toothpicks, so I had to be extra vigilant while the rolls were cooking to ensure that they didn’t unroll themselves; and still, two rogue rolls escaped my efforts).
In a large pan heated over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Gently place rolls in pan, cooking for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until browned and firm when pressed in the middle. (Note: fish should still be slightly rare when you remove it from the heat; it will keep cooking for a couple minutes off the heat.)
While fish is cooking, sauté squash mixture in a medium pan over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until cooked through.
Spoon cooked squash onto two plates, and place couscous-stuffed Dover sole rolls atop the squash mixture. Garnish with lemon wedges from remaining 1/2 lemon.