Today’s recipe is not only a great example of how traditional Latin food can be very healthy, but also how one dish can embody various cultures and provide a glimpse of history. Mexican’s call this huachinango a la veracruzana, or red snapper in a spicy tomato sauce. Considered Veracruz’s most famous dish, it preserves the city’s Spanish heritage (this is where the Spaniards landed when they found Mexico for the first time) and shows how ingredients brought to the new world by the Conquistadores (bay leaves, olives and capers, for example) blended deliciously with the region’s native staples (like chiles and tomatoes.)
It’s precisely those ingredients that come together to make this classic seafood dish, a healthy, vegetable-rich alternative to meat. You can make the sauce using a low-sodium can of whole tomatoes, or go for fresh tomatoes which are even healthier. I usually make the sauce separately, store it in smaller containers and freeze it for up to a month. Then I pan fry or oven roast the fish and top with the sauce. Use the salsa veracruzana on any kind of seafood, or even chicken. Serve with either a side of rice or roasted potatoes.
1 lb red snapper filets
1 lime, cut in half, juiced, halves reserved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-oz can low sodium whole tomatoes
1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives
2 T capers
2 T pickled jalapeño, diced
3 T pickled jalapeño juice
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sugar
Fresh ground pepper
1. Place filets in a shallow pan. Season them with salt and marinate in the lime juice. Place the reserved lime halves in the pan as well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands or using a potato masher. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add olives, capers, jalapeños, jalapeño juice, parsley, oregano, bay leaves and sugar. Season with pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves, and set aside.
4. To cook the filets, preheat oven to 425. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the salsa veracruzana in the bottom of a glass baking dish. Arrange filets on top of the sauce. Cover them with more sauce. (As much as you want; the sauce is as good as the fish!) Bake uncovered until fish is just opaque in center, about 18 minutes. Serve immediately.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.