BRAZILIAN FISH STEW
The Brazilian Kitchen
by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz
Moqueca de Peixe
This fish stew couldn't be more Brazilian, but with the presence of wine and fish stock, it has an international appeal that is hard to resist. Moqueca is originally from the state of Bahia, and there are many versions: fish, shrimp, or crab are the most popular. Use this recipe as a guideline and experiment with different types of fish, such as wild striped bass, halibut, and tilapia. (Be sure to buy Chilean sea bass from a sustainable fishery as the species recently had a close brush with extinction.) Moqueca is of- ten served with farofa), but feel free to use white rice as a side dish as well. With just a little bit of coconut milk, this colorful fish stew is rich only in looks and spirit—one spoonful will reveal how unbelievably light it is.
Makes 4 Servings
• 1 scallion (white and green parts), chopped
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
• 4 large cloves garlic, minced
• 5 tablespoons dende oil
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 4 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
• 1¼ pound sea bass, cut into 2-inch chunks
• 1/2 cup freshly chopped green pepper
• 1/3 cup freshly chopped yellow pepper
• 1½ cups fish stock
• 1 cup coconut milk
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/3 cup canned or jarred hearts of palm, drained and diced
• 2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
1. Prepare the marinade for the fish In a bowl, mix together half of the scallion, half of the onion, half of the ginger, and half of the garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of the dende oil, all of the olive oil, and half of the cilantro. Place the fish chunks in a ziplock bag and add the marinade. Rub it around the fish so it is well distributed. Remove all the air from the plastic bag and seal it well. Place the fish in the refrigerator, making sure it is covered by the marinade, and let it rest for at least 3 hours.
2. Take the fish out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before using. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
3. Place 3 tablespoons of dende oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the remaining scallion, onion, and the green and yellow peppers, and cook until they are soft, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the remaining ginger and garlic and mix well. Cook for another minute or until it s hot. Add the fish stock and let it come to a full boil. Add the coconut milk and tomato paste and let it come to a full boil then lower the heat to simmer the sauce nice and gently.
5. In the meantime, spread the fish and marinade in a gratin dish. Pour the lemon juice on top and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until almost done, 10 to 12 minutes.
6.. Carefully transfer each chunk of fish into the pan with the sauce. Pour in any remaining juices from the fish and marinade. Braise the fish in the sauce over low heat with the pan covered, until the fish is soft and tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
7. Uncover the pan, add the hearts of palm and tomatoes, and let them get hot.
8. Taste the sauce, then season it with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the remaining fresh cilantro. Serve over rice or farofa.
HEARTS OF PALM
Hearts of palm, or palmito in Portuguese, are harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees such as jucara, acai, and pejibaye. They have a nutty, artichoke-like flavor and pair well with an endless variety of ingredients. They are easily found in US supermarkets in either cans or jars. In Brazil the most praised kind is the pupunha, from yet a fourth kind of palm tree called pupunheira, found in the Amazon. It is much larger and meatier then the ones we get in the United States. If you ever go to Brazil, make sure you try a fresh pupunha.