Last week, I was vacationing in Puerto Rico, and I started thinking about eating a fish escabeche, cooked fish marinated in olive oil and vinegar. It is a dish of Spanish origin which is found in many Latin American cookbooks, but unfortunately was not on the menu of any of the restaurants I ate at in Puerto Rico. This version is adapted from a Cuban cookbook (Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz). All versions of escabeche which I have seen call for pan frying the fish and then marinating it for at least a couple of days before eating. This version called for marinating the fish at cool room temperature for a week before eating it, and emphasized that it would not be as good if it was refrigerated. Yesterday, we ate the first half of the escabeche after marinating at room temperature for two days. I then plan to refrigerate the second half for another 3 days before eating it. I will update the blog on the results of this experiment.
1 lb. swordfish steaks (or another good steak fish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups olive oil, divided
1-1/2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 large red or green bell pepper, in ¼ inch slices
5 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup unpitted green olives, cracked
½ bay leave
½ cup white vinegar
Flour for dredging
Salt and pepper the swordfish steak, sprinkle them with the juice from the ½ lime, and marinate them for an hour in the refrigerator.
Pat dry the swordfish steak with paper towels and dredge in flour immediately before frying.
In a large skillet, heat a half cup of the olive oil until hot. Fry the swordfish steaks about 5 minutes on a side until lightly browned. Remove the steaks to a plate and allow them to fully cool.
Heat the remaining 1-1/2 cups of olive oil in a medium sauce pan. When hot, add the onions, pepper strips, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes, until partly tender. Reduce the heat to low, and add the olives, peppercorns, and bay leaf, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar, stir and bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat and allow to fully cool.
Place the swordfish steaks in a non-reactive container just large enough to contain them, Cover them with the cooled oil and vinegar and vegetable marinade.
Cover with a kitchen towel and marinate at cool room temperature for at least a day, flipping the fish at least daily so that it evenly absorbs the marinade. Serve the fish with the marinade and vegetables (and with capers, if desired) with a crusty bread at room temperature.