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Back to the Family by Art Smith
In Central America and other parts of the tropics, many dishes are wrapped in banana leaves, giving them a very special flavor. I get mine in the frozen foods sections of Latin American supermarkets here in Chicago. I also have a banana leaf tree in my kitchen, but I would shoot anyone who tried to cut a leaf from it.
Makes 8 Servings


Red Pepper Sauce
• 1 (8-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 1 bag frozen banana leaves, thawed and cut into 5- or 6-inch squares
• 8 (6 ounces each) tilapia fillets
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Olive oil


1. For the red pepper sauce, place the peppers, garlic, and oregano in a blender.

2. Puree while adding the olive oil in a steady stream. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or a bowl and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

4. Blanch the banana leaves by plunging them into the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and immediately submerge in ice water for 1 minute. Drain. Lay with the smooth side of the leaves up on a baking sheet lightly greased with olive oil.

5. Place each fillet skin side up on a banana leaf and season with salt and pepper. Fold each corner of the leaf over as if you were wrapping a gift. Flip the fish over gently so that the seam side is down.

6. Place the fish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut a slit across the top of the banana leaf, and drizzle or spoon the red pepper sauce over the fish. Serve hot.

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