Veracruz is an infusion of Spanish, Mexican, and Afro-Cuban influences. The cuisine comes from the region of the same name that stretches over most of the Mexico’s eastern coast on the Gulf of Mexico.
Veracruz is a tomato based sauce traditionally flavored with mostly European ingredients such as olives, garlic, and capers. Because of its proximity to the Gulf, it is typically made with an array of fish–though I find recipes with the use of white, flaky fish to be the best. I like to use tilapia in this Caribbean dish. I’ve also incorporated a heavier Spanish influence by serving it on top of homemade yellow rice.
What You’ll Need:
2 cups black olives, chopped
6 tsp garlic, minced
2 bunch fresh oregano
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and small diced
2 lime, quartered
2 yellow onion, small diced
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1.5 cup white basmati rice
2 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 fresh bay leaves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tilapia fillets
6 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
What To Do:
Before you begin, be sure to pick the oregano leaves off the stems and discard the stems.
In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add half of the onion and half of the garlic and cook 3 to 4 minutes until softened, stirring frequently. Stir in the turmeric and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until toasted and well combined.
In the same pot, add the basmati rice, a big pinch of salt and 3 cups of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook 14 to 16 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the juice of 2 lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the rice cooks, in a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the jalapeño, remaining onion and remaining garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion has softened. Add the tomatoes, juice of 2 lime wedges, cinnamon, bay leaf and 2 cup of water. Stir to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper to and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced in volume.
While the sauce cooks, pat the tilapia fillets dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. In a large pan (nonstick, preferably), heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the tilapia and cook 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
Reduce the heat under the fish to medium and add the tomato sauce and all but a pinch of both the olives and oregano (save the rest for garnish) to the pan. Frequently spooning the sauce over the fish, cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced in volume and the fish is cooked though.
Remove from heat and discard the bay leaves.
Top the rice with the tilapia and tomato sauce. Garnish with the remaining olives, oregano and lime wedges.
This hearty dish serves 4 and comes in at about 500 calories/serving.
To your health!