November 19, 2017

Lives Worth Eating – Muqueca

Courtesy of Talita Elizeu

by Talita Elizeu ‘17

Food Columnist

I know you’ve wondered for weeks now: What will she review for the last edition of Lives Worth Eating? How will this culinary saga end? Well, the wait is over: I’ll be sharing a recipe.

Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to share with you both my approach to food and my personal enjoyment of describing a well-seasoned meal. I’ve written to you to push you beyond your boundaries, to encourage you to open up and appreciate intricacies in flavors and textures. I have no way of knowing whether I’ve been successful, but I hope that you approach your meals as graciously as possible. I also hope that you’ve been able to visit a restaurant or two in the meantime.

Muqueca. Photo by Talita Elizeu

In the spirit of sentimentally wrapping up my college career and my favorite job ever, I’ve decided to share one of my mother’s recipes for a Brazilian fish stew called Muqueca. It’s a recipe from the coastal regions of a state in southeast Brazil called Espirito Santo, traditionally cooked in fragile hand-made black clay pots. It’s made with fish steaks layered over sautéed onions, tomatoes, and topped with a generous amount of cilantro. It’s drastically different from any classic New England seafood, retaining the lightness of the fish and emphasizing freshness of the herbs. The tomato sauce that results from the simmering of ingredients balances the fattiness of the hearty fish, and pairs perfectly with some Brazilian white rice. It’s all of the perks of a comfort food with half the fat, and it’s easily prepared with the right type of fish. Impress your hot date (or your parents) this summer with this fresh, delicious, and distinctive dish. As for the food criticism, I’ll leave the mouth-watering descriptions to your guests.

MUQUECA (feeds 3-4)

4 medium fish steaks (snapper or striped bass, grouper works but takes a little longer)

1 large OR two medium Vidalia or white onions

6 plum tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

1tbsp of paprika

1 lime

2-3 tbsp of olive oil

½ bunch of Cilantro – or to taste

Green onion to taste (optional, my mom’s personal taste)

Salt to taste

*a large pan or pot to fit all the food

  1. Rinse off the fish steaks. Squeeze half a lime, salt to taste, and let it marinate while you prepare the other elements.
  2. Dice up the onions and tomatoes, and chop up the cilantro (and scallions if you choose to use them).
  3. Fire up the pan on medium, and heat the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic sauté until the onions are translucent. Stir in the paprika until it is evenly distributed.
  4. Add the tomatoes, and salt lightly, keeping in mind that the fish is already salted. Stir in half of the cilantro (and scallions) you want to use.
  5. Gently place the fish steaks over a bed of about half the tomatoes and onions, and cover the fish with the other half. Cover the pan, and let it simmer on medium for 15-20 minutes for the snapper or striped bass, 20-30 minutes for the grouper. DO NOT STIR THE POT. Let it simmer and let the heat do its work.
  6. When it’s ready, throw the remaining chopped herbs on top. Serve with garlicky white rice, the other half of the lime, herbs, olive oil to taste and cayenne pepper for a kick.

 

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