Sunday, March 29, 2009
Proust in Mexico
Just think of it. If Proust had grown up in Mexico and his mother had offered him, instead of a cup of tea and a madeleine, a warm tortilla fresh from the comal. And a small bite of it had brought back a single, happy memory of the tortillas his beloved aunt had made for him as a child.
Would a "Remembrance of Things Past" that conjured a Mexican village instead of a French one, with "its surroundings, taking shape and solidity," have affected the history of literature as it did?
For me, all it takes is the aroma of warm corn tortillas, or a whiff of the sharp citrus scent of a freshly cut lime to bring back memories of Mexico, of a beach at sunset, a line of palm-roofed palapas illuminated by candles flickering in the warm breeze off the ocean.
It was at just such a place in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that I had Veracruzana, a dish made with the local fish called huachinango. Quickly cooked in a sauce of chiles, green olives and tomato, then brought to the table and scooped up with fresh tortillas, it instantly rocketed to the top of my list of most-ordered menu items. And it's become a big favorite here at home when its cold and rainy and we need a reminder of more tropical climes.
Adapted from Mexico: The Beautiful Cookbook by Susanna Palazuelos and Marilyn Tausend
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. onion, chopped
2 bell peppers or combination of peppers like poblano, jalapeño, serrano, red bell, etc. (mixing colors is good, too), about 2-3 c. sliced in strips
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and chopped or large can roma tomatoes, crushed, with their juice
3 Tbsp. capers
1/2-1 c. green olives, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. red snapper or similar fish filets
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and sauté onions, garlic and peppers till tender. Add bay leaves and oregano and sauté 1 min., then add tomatoes, capers and green onions. Simmer 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in another skiller. Brown snapper on both sides and transfer to 9" by 12" baking dish. Pour tomato sauce over top and bake in 375° oven for 15 minutes. Serve with rice, fresh tortillas and green salad.