Moqueca is a fitting representation of Brazil’s diverse culinary background. There are several variations of this dish today, but Moqueca Baiana, from the Northeast state of Bahia, is one of the most interesting reflection of the traditions embedded in Brazilian cuisine.
Originally a seafood stew prepared by the native people of Brazil, Moqueca has taken on a new form over the past few hundred years. Some signature flavors of today’s Moqueca Baiana recipe include coconut milk, first introduced by Portuguese colonists who planted coconut trees as they removed other trees for wood, and palm oil, brought over by African slaves as part of the sugarcane trade.
Although palm oil contains some health benefits, there are ecological concerns with its production. I prefer to use Nutiva palm oil, which is certified organic and fair trade, and they ensure that no deforestation or habitat destruction results from the growing and harvesting processes. We also pop our popcorn in this oil, which gives it a rich, buttery flavor.
Moqueca Baiana – Brazilian Seafood Stew (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal, Whole30)
1 lb firm white fish (cod, sea bass, whiting), cut into 1″ chunks
juice of two limes (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp palm oil
1 medium onion, cut into slices
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, sliced
1 green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced into rings
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced into rings
1 yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, sliced into rings
1/2 lb raw shrimp
1 (13.5oz) can coconut milk
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the fish and lime juice; cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes, while you prepare the rest of the dish.
2. In a deep skillet, warm the coconut oil and palm oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until very soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cumin, salt, and garlic; saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Layer the tomato and bell pepper slices, then add the shrimp, coconut milk, the fish, and half of the lime juice. Scatter with parsley, cover, and reduce heat to med/low.
3. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, the fish is cooked through, and the shrimp is pink and curled, about 10-15 minutes; as the food cooks, shake and jostle the pan every few minutes to mix the sauce and vegetables. Scatter with the cilantro, taste and add salt if desired, then serve.