Peixada, a Perfect Summer Dish

This Sunday, fireworks will light up the sky and grills across the country will sizzle and smoke. Every family has its traditional Fourth of July feast, from burgers and barbecued chicken to dishes from all over the world. This year, Lynne Christy Anderson, author of Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens, will add peixada, a Brazilian dish with fish, cilantro, and vegetables, to her family’s picnic table.
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The Fourth of July is approaching and here in New England, my family and I have celebrated with lobster bakes on the beach, franks and burgers on the grill, or, sometimes, just a bowl of chowder made with quahogs shucked that morning.

After having spent several years cooking in immigrant kitchens to learn about the foods people from around the world prepare far from home, I’ve thought about incorporating some new dishes into our family repertoire of holiday standards.

On a day to celebrate independence and pride in America, why not consider our immigrant neighbors and all of the wonderful traditions they’ve brought with them to this country? After all, the pizza, enchiladas, and stir-fries we all love, even the franks my family tosses on the grill, came from somewhere else.

So, this year, I’m nodding toward Brazil, another country fiercely proud of its independence, as I prepare our Fourth of July dinner. It will be Liz’s peixada, a wonderfully aromatic poached fish dish that she taught me to make in her Boston kitchen where she was cooking with her son on the day I visited.

Summer is a perfect time for peixada with the fresh scallions, tomatoes, and cilantro so readily available (I’ll get mine from the garden) and the fish I can buy at the local market. It’s one of those meals that friends I’ve served it to assume must be complicated to prepare because it’s both beautiful and delicious–the white fish delicately draped in the soft greens and pinks of the freshly cut vegetables it was poached in.

But, really, making peixada is as simple as putting everything in a pot and poaching it for the eight or so minutes it takes for the fish to be just cooked through.

LIZ’S PEIXADA
Serves 4

In Brazil, this is served with a puree made of toasted yucca flour, which is detailed in my book. You could also serve it with rice or even just a crusty loaf of French bread to sop up all the wonderful broth.

1 ½ pounds swordfish or other firm white fish such as halibut or monkfish, cut into 1-inch thick steaks or fillets
¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small red onion, cut into very thin rings
4 plum tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
½ bunch cilantro, leaves chopped, (about ½ cup)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 whole scallions, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-sized Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot fitted with a cover, add the ¼ cup of olive oil. Arrange the vegetables in layers by first placing half of the sliced onions in the bottom of the pot, followed by half of the tomatoes, and finally, half of the chopped cilantro. Spread the fish over this. Sprinkle with the lemon juice.

Cover fish with remaining onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Sprinkle scallions and garlic over vegetables and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Cook, covered, on medium-high heat until the liquid from the fish and vegetables begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until fish is done, about 10 minutes. (The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish. Allow for approximately 10 minutes per 1-inch thickness of fish.)

Lynne Christy Anderson is the author of Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens. Visit her website at www.lynnechristyanderson.com