Escabeche originated in Spain as a means of pickling and preserving all sorts of fish, poultry and vegetables in an acid-based marinade. The technique traveled around the world with the Spanish explorers and became an important part of the Latin American culinary repertoire, including that of Mexico. Escabeche will work with any meaty white fish; this recipe calls for pickling cooked fish in a lively citrus-vegetable marinade.
Citrus Vegetable Marinade:
- ½ large red onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
- ½ cup red and orange bell peppers, thinly sliced (about ¼ medium pepper)
- ¼ cup pitted green olives, halved
- 2 teaspoons capers
- ½ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 black peppercorns, crushed
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 8 tilapia fillets
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon adobo spice
- Combine the onions, bell pepper, olives and capers in a large heatproof bowl.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers, add the garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf and heat for 30 to 40 seconds, watching carefully until the garlic is a very pale golden brown and fragrant, but not brown. (Be careful not to let it burn; burned garlic is very bitter and you would need to start over.)
- Pour the hot oil mixture over the vegetables and toss gently to coat and let the heat soften and “cook” them a bit. Add the lemon, orange, and lime juices and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To prepare the fish, preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat the fillets evenly with the olive oil and adobo powder, place in a roasting pan in a single layer, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and opaque, with no sign of pink or translucence. The baking time will depend on the thickness of the fillets.
- Allow the fish to cool; then carefully transfer it a large serving dish, and pour the vegetable mixture over it, cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled.