Paulo’s Moqueqa (Brazilian Fish Stew)

Here is a delicious soupy stew that’s perfect to have in warm weather. It’s easy to make, but it takes a little while because of all the steps, so it may be nice to make on a summer weekend. Serve it with rice and crusty bread.

Serves 8 as a main course

2 1/2 lbs. fresh white fish fillets, such as cod, sea bass, grouper or red snapper (or use a mix of fish and shrimp, clams, or mussels)
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 Tbsp. garlic, minced (about 8 regular cloves)
1 red chili pepper, cored, seeded and minced
2 large green bell peppers, cored, seeded and julienned
1 large onion, chopped in half and thinly sliced
4 small tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped
7-8 cups fish stock (use a good stock if you have it)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
1 full cup roughly chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
4 cilantro sprigs for garnish

Wash the fish fillets thoroughly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper, rubbing the seasonings into the fillets. Mix 1 Tbsp. oil and 1 Tbsp. garlic and rub mixture into fillets; place fish on a plate to marinate briefly at room temperature.

In a large stew pot, heat the remaining 3 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic and minced chili. Saute a couple of minutes, then add the bell peppers. Saute until barely tender, then remove with slotted spoon and place on a plate. Add fish to the pot and cook just until opaque, then remove with a spatula and return to plate (don’t worry if the fish breaks apart when you remove it, as long as you still have large chunks of it).

Add onions to pot and saute until just tender, adding a touch more oil if needed. Add tomatoes and cook until heated through, then stir in the peppers.

Add fish stock, bring to a boil, and let simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. (This would be a good time to start cooking the rice.) Dissolve the tomato paste in the coconut milk and add to the stew, stirring constantly until the coconut milk is thoroughly blended. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in lime juice. Add fish and cilantro and heat through. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over rice, garnished with sprigs.

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