Late summer and early fall is red snapper (a.k.a. pargo in the Caribbean or huachinango in Mexico) season—and it makes for a tasty, healthy alternative to meat. (Photo/Betty Cortina)

A healthy idea: Roasted snapper

We always hear about the Latino affinity for meat, for lechon, for chorizo. But it’s easy to forget that in many of our home countries there is a long, storied love affair with seafood. Our people come from islands after all, and from the long, rich coast lines off South and Central America, where some of the best seafood in the world is caught.

Early fall is high season for red snapper, known throughout Latin American as either pargo or huachinango, so it’s a great time to make this dish. With it’s firm, white texture it’s a “meaty” fish that stands up to the Latino way of seasoning, that is heavy on the sazón. In Cuba, for example, snapper is marinated just the way chicken or pork is—in a garlicky mojo—before it’s oven roasted.  And in Mexico, home to one of the world’s most famous snapper dishes, huachinango a la veracruzana, it’s stewed in or roasted with a rich sauce made of tomatoes, chile, olive and capers.

Today’s recipe is an adaptation of the traditional whole-fish roast, a simpler weeknight way that makes reaching for a healthy alternative to meat an easy choice.

Roasted snapper

4 red snapper fillets, about 6 oz each
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 cup juice of naranja agria (a.k.a. Seville orange; or substitute with 1/4 cup lemon, juice of 1/4 cup lime and 1/2 cup orange juice)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large red potatoes, sliced thinly (about 1/4 inch thick)
Olive oil
1 medium yellow sliced very thinly
1 red bell pepper, sliced very thinly
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced very thinly
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 T sherry vinegar

1. Start by marinating the fish. Place the fillets in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine the orange juice with the garlic, cumin and oregano then pour the marinade over the fish. Rub the fillets with the marinade to make sure they covered. Sprinkle the fillets with salt, pepper and paprika. Top them with sliced the onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. Meanwhile, par cook the sliced potatoes by placing them in a medium sauce pan filled with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes, until they are half-cooked. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the baking pan or sheet where you will cook the fish by greasing it lightly with olive oil. Place the sliced, par cooked potatoes on the sheet in one layer, like a blanket on which the fish will sit. Take the sliced onions from the bowl where the fish is marinating and layer them on top of the potatoes. Add the thinly sliced peppers.

4. Place the fish fillets on top of the vegetables. Pour the white wine and sherry vinegar over the fish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and place the in middle rack of the preheated oven. Cook until fish is opaque and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Serve with white or brown rice and black beans. Makes 4 servings.

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