Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fish tostadas, Veracruz style

I spent part of my junior year of college living in Spain. I was in the southern part of the country, in Granada, which is not too far from the Mediterranean Ocean. Because of this proximity, my host family ate a lot of seafood. And during Lent, it seems that’s all we ate.

We had fish stew, shellfish paella, tuna pizza, fish mashed potatoes and fish croquettes. But one of my favorite dishes served was flaky white fish covered in a tomato sauce studded with green olives. All at once it was salty, acidic and sweet.

The Mexican state of Veracruz is on the Gulf of Mexico and is said to be where the Spanish first made their entry into Mexico. Because of this, much of the Veracruzana cuisine is still heavily influenced by Spanish cuisine.

The Spaniards introduced the herbs thyme, marjoram and bay laurel, which have become hallmarks of that state’s cooking. They also brought along olives and capers, so it’s no surprise that the signature salsa from that state uses all of these ingredients.

Salsa Veracruzana is a rich tomato-based sauce that isn’t too spicy. It’s cooked, so the ingredients meld together into one complex flavor instead of the several distinct flavors more often found in raw-blended salsa. Also, the bay leaves, thyme and marjoram give it a distinctly different flavor than your usual tomato salsas made with just cilantro, jalapeno and lime salsas. That said there is also cilantro, jalapeno and lime juice in this salsa, which makes it still taste distinctly Mexican.

And then there are the olives and capers that are found in this salsa. I love salty and acidic foods—they remind me of the sea. For this reason, I think that olives and capers also go very well with fish, thus making this salsa a perfect topping for a Mexican fish dish such as a tostada or a taco.

We have a few more Fridays in Lent, and I think if you aren’t eating beef or pork during this time, these fish tostadas are a hearty, meaty dish. I also enjoy it, however, because it takes me back almost 20 years to when I was a young student living in Spain.

Salsa Veracruzana
1 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
12 large green olives, pitted and diced
2 tablespoons of capers
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon limejuice
Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pot on medium high, and then cook the onions and jalapeños for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, then turn off the heat and then stir in the crushed tomatoes, scraping any brown bits that might have formed on the bottom of the pan. Mix well but don’t let it get hot.

Immediately place the tomato mixture into a blender, and puree into smooth. Pour the blended tomato mixture back into the pot, and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Fish tostadas with Veracruzana salsa
Four 4-oz. fillets of cod
Four corn tortillas
1/2 cup of peanut oil, canola oil or lard
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of cumin
Salt to taste
One lime cut into quarters
A couple of sprigs of cilantro
Veracruzana salsa

In a skillet, heat up the 1/2 cup of peanut oil on medium high for five minutes. If you flick in a drop of water and it sizzles and pops, it’s ready. (Alternatively, you could heat it to about 280 degrees). One at a time, add the corn tortillas and heat on each side for about a minute. Remove from oil, sprinkle with salt and drain on a paper towel.

Season each side of the fish fillets with cumin and salt. Heat a skillet to medium heat, add the olive oil and cook the fillets on each side for about four minutes, or until the fish flakes. (You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of you skillet).

Take cooked fish fillets, and place one fillet on a fried-corn tortilla, cover in salsa and garnish with lime and cilantro.

Serves four.

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Phoo-D said...

These sound absolutely delicious. I love fish tostadas and the Salsa Veracruzana is so unique. I can't wait to give this one a try. Thanks!

maggie said...

Yum! Love the capers and olives, sounds delicious.

Culinary Wannabe said...

I'm stuck on the "fish mashed potatoes." Seriously?!

lisaiscooking said...

Just delicious. I want this for dinner every day. Can't wait to make the salsa.

ann said...

I want to know more about the fish mashed potatoes too! Were they made with salt cod? I bet that would be delicious. I *heart* veracruzana sauce too. Its like puttanesca to the nth degree.

jbeach said...

I am definitely going to make this in the next few days. I have some red snapper, will probably use these instead.
I've been wanting to try Salsa Veracruzana for a while, might as well make it myself! Thanks for the recipe!!

Sara said...

Yay! Thanks for the lesson! Looking forward to making these. I heart your blog!

noble pig said...

This is a beautiful dish. One of my favorite visits to Spain was when I spent time in Granada...such memories and yes all the fish!

kathi said...

This sounds fantastic. But I too want to hear about the fish mashed potatoes. Go figure!

Innkeeper Seely said...

I will try anything with capers or anchovy but can't warm up to olives. I'll try this with an extra dash of capers and skip the olives.

Dish on the fish mashed potatoes. Sounds like something I should make since I live in a fishing village

Anonymous said...

That sounds absolutely delicious!

Olivia said...

Ooh 9 times out of 10 why do I come to your blog when I am already hungry? Now my stomach is growling again.
I love fish and am not eating enough of it. Mmmm and yes capers do go well with fish - I remember eating grilled rainbow trout at home with slits cut under the skin, stuffed with capers and garlic.

Lynda said...

I haven't had fish tacos before, but I wnat them now! They sound so good.

masdevallia said...

It's always such a pleasure to read your posts. The photos are beautiful and the personal history is a treat to read. I used to work in a place that specialized in Baja style fish tacos. I'm happy to expand this out to 1) a tostada 2) Vera Cruz! My husband is going to be very happy that I read this post!!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Phoo-D--It's very delicious. Enjoy!

Maggie--Capers and olives are wonderful with the fish!

Culinary Wannabe--You're not the only one, sounds like I need to put it on the blog.

LisaisCooking--It's good for breakfast, too!

Ann--Nope, canned tuna.

JBeach--Red snapper will be a wonderful substitution.

Sara--You're welcome!

Noble Pig--I love that city and I hope I can spend a long chunk of time there again someday.

Kathi--You're not alone--I need to write something about it!

Innkeeper Seely--That would be fine as they're still briny and salty.

Olivia--I've warned you before about stopping by on an empty stomach! And I love the sound of that grilled trout with olives stuffed under the skin. Mmmm!

Masdevallia--Thank you so much! I'm very pleased that you enjoy stopping by!

Justin Schwartz said...

holy cow, I want to eat your blog

unconfidentialcook said...

These look so yummy, and that salsa sounds good enough to eat by the spoonful.

Tommy said...

Our local PBS station WNED Buffalo/Toronto airs the Made in Spain program with Jose Andres.

If you haven't seen it, it offers a very good look into the Spanish culinary scene and does a great job into tantalizing one to visit Spain in search of food and culinary adventure.

Shout out to PBS for one excellent series.

Meghan said...

Made this over the weekend and the flavors were just right! I didn't even need to puree the tomatoes, it was sort-of like a pasta sauce. I can imagine it also being great with fresh tomatoes, just slightly cooked.

Helene said...

That's nice to spend some time in Spain. This is a meal I would enjoy.

Susan said...

Made these tonight with halibut and they were absolutely delicious. I've been wanting to make pescado Veracruzano for a while; thanks for the wonderful recipe!

tbsamsel said...

¿Can huachinango veracruzana be far behind? ¿Or filete tampiqueña?

And in this same tradition, we used to order something called tacos portuguesas at restaurants in the border area of S Texas in the 1950s. A sauced corn tortilla fold-over (envuelto?) that I have not been able to replicate. ¿Have you ever heard of these?


Cynthia said...

I'm a regular reader of a blogger from Spain and she lives in the same area you were in and she cooks great seafood dishes all the time.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Justin Schwartz--Thanks--that's high praise!

UnConfidentialCook--Oh, and trust me, I did eat the sauce by the spoonful.

Tommy--I'll have to keep an eye out for that show, sounds wonderful!

Meghan--Yay! Glad you loved it, and I agree, it is a bit like a pasta sauce.

Helene--I love Spain!

Susan--Awesome! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

TBSamsel--I haven't but let me investigate and see what I find.

Cynthia--Now that makes sense!

Chris said...

Wow! My wife pointed out your blog to me today since I decided that I needed a creative outlet aside from cooking. I have to tell you that your blog is great and I subscribed. I, too, am from the west (AZ) and really miss decent Mexican food. What they call Mexican here in DC really is horrible and I find myself avoiding going to them if my friends dont want to go to one of the few "APPROVED" places. Im going to try the fish tostadas soon.

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