Snapper (mangrove) alla Matalotta

This Sicilian snapper recipe, based on Mahi Mahi Stewed with Cherry Tomatoes and Capers from “Seafood alla Siciliana” by Toni Lydecker, is the perfect healthy, elegant weekday meal for a hot summer day. This is especially true with our vines producing cherry tomatoes faster than I can think of new uses. Lydecker uses mahi mahi in her recipe but offers many alternatives — just about any nice piece of medium-firm fish. After looking over the choices at our local fish market, Black Salt in DC, we chose a gorgeous piece of mangrove snapper. This was our first experience with this fish and we were not disappointed.

Salt-preserved capers are not the easiest to find, but it just so happens next door to Black Salt MacArther Beverages carries selected gourmet products, mostly Italian, including Tunisian salt-preserved capers. The salted capers do have a nicer flavor than the brined, tasting more like capers and less like brine.

Armed with my fabulous fish, salt-preserved capers and garden tomatoes, here is the recipe.

 A nice piece of snapper about 1 lb and about an inch and half thick, lightly salted
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic – not in the original recipe, but seriously no garlic?
¼ c olive oil
½ c white wine – original recipe uses water
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup green olives – deli olives, not jarred (this was optional in the original recipe)
1 t parsley, chopped
Red pepper flakes to taste
1 heaping T of salt-preserved capers, soaked in water 5 minutes and then drained

In a skillet big enough to hold the fish, sauté the garlic and onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes or so, until the onions are clear but not brown. Add the wine, tomatoes, olives, parsley, red pepper and capers. (Don’t forget to soak and drain the capers). Bring to a simmer and place the fish on top, skin side down. Cover and cook over med-low heat for about 10 minutes until the fish is cooked. The cooked tomatoes will become quite juicy, as such this dish is traditionally more of a soup or stew served in a bowl. Since I used white wine instead of water the result had less liquid and could be served on a plate.

After cooking this lovely dish I tried unsuccessfully to find out what Matalotta referred to. A search on the internet really didn‘t result in much other than that it seems to be a Sicilian cooking style that traditionally uses tuna. There are quite a few recipes that use grouper, some of which flour and pan fry the fish before placing it with the other ingredients.  However you choose to do pesche alla Matalotta it is a great healthy alternative for cooking good fish.