Veracruz-Style Tilapia

Tonight marks the launch of ArtSpace DC’s first cooking class, taught by yours truly.  I showed some of my photography at ArtSpace back in November and, in the course of setting that up, had conversations with ArtSpace’s director that led to me agreeing to teach a one-night-a-week for six weeks class focusing on simple, healthy meals suitable for weeknight preparation by people with busy schedules, not a lot of money and no special cooking equipment.  To this end, my goal is to come up with simple recipes that take no more than 30 minutes or so to make and that require nothing more than a knife, cutting board, pots and pans and, maybe, a blender.

Tonight we’ll be making this sort-of-Veracruz-style tilapia, along with some white rice and some radish greens sautéed in olive oil with garlic (not pictured).  Red snapper is typically used in this Veracruz-style dish, but red snapper is on Seafood Watch’s don’t eat list, while tilapia farmed in the U.S. and Central and South America is a more sustainable, less expensive alternative.  (Tilapia farmed in China and Taiwan are problematic due to pollution and general poor management).  Also, Veracruz-style fish is typically started on the stove top, where the sauce is made, but then transferred to the oven and baked when the fish is added.  For the sake of speed and simplicity, I cook this dish from start to finish on the stove top.  This recipe serves four.

  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted green olives
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or other large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Sauté onions until translucent, stirring regularly, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, oregano and bay leaves and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes, including juice, along with olives, raisins and capers and continue cooking over medium-high heat until sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add tilapia fillets, covering them with the tomato sauce.  Cook over medium-high heat until the fish is flaky and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Season sauce with salt and pepper, then serve over rice.

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