When I visited my daughter Daniela in Rio de Janeiro during her junior year abroad, like every visiting parent, I asked where she wanted to eat. She did not hesitate: a seafood restaurant specializing in food from the coastal state of Bahia. And that’s where we tasted moqueca de peixe for the first time.
- 2 pounds grouper, sea bass, or any firm white fish with fins and scales
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons palm or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 bell peppers, preferably yellow, orange, or red
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ⅓ cup hearts of palm, drained and diced
- 2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced
- 1 ¼ cups fish stock
- 1 lemon
Yield: 4 servings
- Step 1
Cut the fish into 2-inch chunks and put in a baking dish or a resealable plastic bag.
- Step 2
In a small bowl, mix together half the onion, half the ginger, half the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the palm or vegetable oil, all of the extra-virgin olive oil, half the cilantro, and the salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture over the fish and massage until well blended. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Step 3
Remove the fish from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Step 4
Heat a deep cast iron or heavy casserole, add the remaining 2 tablespoons palm or vegetable oil, then sauté all the peppers and the rest of the onion, ginger, and garlic until soft and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, tomato paste, hearts of palm, plum tomatoes, and fish stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
- Step 5
Once the oven is ready, place the marinated fish on a baking dish and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until almost cooked. Remove from the oven and squeeze half a lemon over the filets. Carefully ladle each chunk of fish into the pan with the sauce and simmer 5 more minutes. Squeeze the other half of the lemon over the entire dish and sprinkle with the rest of the cilantro. Serve it over rice or fried yucca.