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Tilapia a la Veracruzana

Tilapia a la Veracruzana |
I'm not sure if you've noticed or not, but over the past couple of months, I have been taking part in a little challenge put forth by Pomì Tomatoes.  Basically, if participating, you are given an ingredient for the month which you are to pair with Pomì tomatoes.  The ingredient for March was wine.  April was eggplant (I was fortunate enough to win this challenge).  And this month's iPomì challenge is fish.

I have changed my mind on what I wanted to make approximately 37 times.  No joke.  I've gone back and forth so many times from a good (insert fish here) Puttanesca en Papillote to a Spicy Fish Ball Soup to a lightly breaded Tuna with Tomatoes to Cod Fritters to.... yeah.  I've been super indecisive.  
Tilapia a la Veracruzana |
Finally I put out a little "social network" call for suggestions on what other people would make with a box of Pomì tomatoes and fish of their choice.  I loved hearing the responses and suggestions from everybody.  Suggestions that varied almost as much as the potential-recipes already floating around in my skull.

But then I received a suggestion that I couldn't get out of my head.  It was for a sauce known as Salsa Veracruzana.  It's something I've made before, but not for years.  It hails from Mexico (Veracruz. Obviously), and takes into account some of the Spanish influence on cooking brought over by the conquistadors.  It's chunky and briny and beautifully rustic.  And the perfect cloak for pretty much any variety of fresh fish.  Though it's good on plenty of other things, as well.

Although all versions are essentially the same, this is my version.  And personally, I could eat it all by its lonesome, with a spoon.  But fish of any sort only elevates it that much higher.

Tilapia a la Veracruzana
Tilapia a la Veracruzana |
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: entree sauce fish tomatoes Mexican

Ingredients (serves 4 + extra sauce)
    for the Salsa Veracruzana
    • 1 (26.46 ounce) box Pomi chopped tomatoes
    • 3 (medium-large) red bell peppers, roasted (then stemmed & seeded), divided
    • 1/2 cup water + more as needed
    • 2 (medium) poblano chiles, roasted (then stemmed & seeded)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 (medium) red onion, sliced thinly
    • 4 fat cloves garlic, sliced thinly
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
    • 1/2 cup Manzanillo olives, sliced
    • 1/4 cup capers
    • small handful fresh cilantro, chopped (heaping 1/4 cup once chopped)
    • small handful fresh parsley, chopped (heaping 1/4 cup once chopped)
    • sea salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    for Tilapia
    • butter or olive oil, for sauteing fish
    • 4 (or more) Tilapia fillets
    to finish
    • lemon slices
    to make the Salsa Veracruzana (yield: 1 generous quart):
    Pour the entire box of Pomi tomatoes into the jar of a blender. Add the 1/2 cup of water, and 2 of the roasted red bell peppers. Pulse until almost smooth, but it's okay if it is still slightly chunky. Set aside.

    In a large, deep-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic; saute until limp and beginning to turn a bit golden in spots, 7-10 minutes. Add the reserved puree to the pan. Adjust heat and allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes.

    Thinly slice the remaining roasted red pepper, and the poblanos and add them to the pan after the 15 minutes has passed. Also add the oregano, bay leaves, lemon juice, vinegar, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for about 7-10 minutes. Mixture should be thick, but glumpy...if it seems too thick, stir in a little water at a time, to make it slightly loose.

    Turn off heat, taste and adjust for seasoning; stir in the cilantro and the parsley. At this point, set aside and keep warm while you cook the fish. You could also cool it down and store in a jar or container in the fridge at this point.

    making the Tilapia:
    Sprinkle fish with a little bit of salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a skillet over medium-high and add a couple pats of butter or a big drizzle of olive oil. Place fish presentation side down and saute until golden and cooked halfway through. Flip and continue cooking until just done. This shouldn't take more than 5 minutes or so, total. Do it all at once, or in batches.

    Serve 1-2 fillets per person (depending on the person), with a half cup or so of the Salsa Veracruzana per serving.

    Garnish with a lemon wheel.

    You can cook the fish in any manner you like...steam it, grill it, broil don't have to saute it. Either way, it'll be delicious. Also, feel free to use with another type of fish (just adjust cooking times to thickness) - fillets, steaks, or even whole fish.

    Salsa Veracruzana is also delicious with steak (my hubby's favorite way to eat it), prime rib, lengua (tongue), pork, chicken, or any way you choose.
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    Tilapia a la Veracruzana |
    So tell me, what would YOU make with a box of Pomì tomatoes and the fish of your choice?

    I received two boxes of Pomì Tomatoes at no charge to use as I pleased to test and develop a recipe using fish and Pomì Tomatoes.  I received no compensation for writing this post.  All opinions are my own.