This recipe comes from Brazil's most populous state, São Paulo, home to more than forty-one million inhabitants, a majority of whom can trace their ancestry back to immigrants from Portugal, Spain or Italy. It's that Mediterranean ancestry which probably explains the quantity of olive oil (and olives) in this delicious recipe for fried fish. Since we've been discussing the role of olive oil in Brazilian cuisine the past couple of days here on Flavors of Brazil, it seems appropriate to feature a recipe in which both the fruit of the olive tree and the oil pressed from that fruit sit front and center.
The traditional recipe for this dish calls for the fish to be cação, which is the Portuguese word for shark as a food source (there's another word for the animal itself). There are significant concerns about the sustainability of shark fisheries worldwide, so we recommend that you choose another white-fleshed fish that doesn't easily flake - halibut being an excellent substitution.
RECIPE - Fried Fish, São Paulo Style (Frigideira de Peixe)
For the fish:
4 shark, halibut or other white fish steaks
salt to taste
juice of one lime
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, sedded and chopped
1 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped (deli-style European olives preferred)
4 caper berries
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut into strips
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and cut into strips
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, finely minced
Wash and dry the fish steaks. Season them with salt to taste and lime juice. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil, and fry the chopped onion and tomatoes in it until the onions are transparent and the tomatoes are soft. Sprinkle half the chopped olives over the onion/tomato mixture, then add the four steaks in one layer. Sprinkle the remainder of the olives on top, and add one caper berry to the top of each steak. Cover the pan, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.
While the fish is cooking, heat another frying pan and add one Tbsp olive oil. Fry the onion and tomato strips briefly, until the onion is just transparent and the tomato strips are softened.
When the fish is cooked, sprinkle the fried onion and tomato-strip mixture over, the top with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately from the pan, accompanied by either white rice or boiled new potatoes.
Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brasileira by Abril Editora.