The Real Treasure of the Caribbean: Haiti, Part 1. Baked Fish.

I love my Haitian students. Make no mistake – I love all my students, and I reveal in having “the United Nations” environment in my classroom. However, students who come from this tiny, much-suffered, but proud little country have a special place in my heart. No matter the topic of conversation, if there is even one Haitian person around, invariably the discussion will turn to education. They absorb knowledge the way we breath air, and always ask for more.

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The first and the oldest black republic in the world, and the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere after the United States (M. Christopher, Haiti, 2016), it has a fascinating history, colorful and dramatic.

Christopher Columbus on Santa Maria in 1492..jpg

Columbus landed close to what today’s is the town of Cap-Haitien on his first voyage in 1492. Under his command he had three vessels, Nina (“The Girl”, later known as Santa Clara), Pinta (“The Painted”), and Santa Maria. The first two were 19 ft caravels. To give you a frame of reference, our little Catalina, considered not a “blue water” (ocean-going) boat, is 26 ft. The courage of those sailors who crossed the Atlantic in 19-footers never seizes to amaze me! Santa Maria, however, was a fairly large carrack, even by modern standards; at 62 ft hull length, she was Columbus’ flagship, fondly dubbed La Capitana.

This paining depicts Columbus “taking possession of the New World in caravels The Nina and The Pinta.” Wait a minute, what happened to Santa Maria, the flagship? It appears that on Christmas Eve, December 1492, getting ready to return home, the admiral and his officers, including the steersman, had a nice going-away party with a few drinks. Exhausted after all the packing and having had no sleep for almost two days, Columbus conked out around 11 p.m. His officers soon followed suit, and the steersman turned his rudder over to a cabin boy. “Hey, nino, – he must’ve said, – the night is calm, even a pipsqueak like you could hold her still, and don’t you dare tell the boss! Nighty-night!”

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Sure enough, the hapless kid ran La Capitana aground. That was some rude awakening for Columbus and his crew, but, always practical, he ordered the wreck dismantled, and, with gracious permission given by Cacique Guacanagari, the leader of native Taino tribe, used salvaged timber to build a settlement called “Navidad” (Christmas). The hospitable Cacique allowed 39 men to be left behind. Unfortunately, on his second voyage, Columbus found his people dead and the settlement burnt. Tragically, the peaceful and friendly indigenous people were not immune to European diseases, and contact with newcomers proved fatal to them (The Journal of Christopher Columbus (during His First Voyage, 1492-93, London, 1893).

About 150 years later, the formerly peaceful island became pirate’s haven. Actually, the name was specifically given to the island or Tortuga that forms part of Haiti. Romanticized in many books and films, from Captain Blood by Sabatini to the blockbuster franchise Pirates of the Caribbean, Tortuga was a neutral hideout, a pirate republic regulated by strict Brethren of the Coast rules. Captain Jack Sparrow, brilliantly portrayed by Johnny Depp as one of the Brethren Princes, is a fictional character (sorry, fans!), but many protagonists in Sabatini novels are based on real personages and events. At the same time, in the second half of 17th century, African slaves were imported to Hispaniola (the island shared by Santo Domingo and Haiti) to work sugar, coffee, indigo, cotton, and tobacco plantations. The richest colony of the French empire, Hispaniola became known as “The Pearl of the Antilles,” but its history is wrought by slave insurrections. By that time, the pirate era came to an end, and the capital was moved from Tortuga to the mainland (today Port-au-Prince). Nonetheless, legends abound and enthusiasts are still searching for pirate treasures. Some of them, such as the famous Mel Fisher, get lucky, and some of their finds are displayed in several Key West museums.

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I think that the real “pearl”, the true treasure of Haiti is in its freedom-loving people, its rich culture, and the unique flavors of its food. I’ve asked some of my students to share authentic Haitian recipes. Here is the first one, with beautiful photos, offered by Josette Pierre (See Haiti, Part 2. Fried Accra here, and Haiti, Part 3. Liberty Soup here). Even though the concept of barbecue (“barabicu” in Taino and “barbacoa” in European languages) originated in Haiti, and grilled fish is sold by many street vendors today, Josette’s fish is baked, using traditional Haitian marinade.

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Take four – five fresh red snappers, scale them and clean them. To make marinade, you’ll need to dice red onion and some bell peppers, preferably different colors, like green, red, and yellow. You’ll need to chop up some fresh parsley and a few garlic cloves (to taste). Get your olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and some red wine ready.

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Slash the body of each fish, rub fish with salt, and dredge them first through wine, then through lemon juice. Leave it be for about 15 – 20 minutes.

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While your fish is resting, make marinade by blitzing onion, peppers, garlic, parsley, and some olive oil in a food processor or blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Your fish wants to be rinsed again with cold water, and now you can add marinade to it. Give it a little taste test – you might want to add some more salt and pepper, and perhaps some more lemon juice, but don’t overdo it! Mix it well and let it rest again for 30 minutes.

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Now is the time to oil your baking dish, place your fish into it, and bake it uncovered for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and beautiful. Don’t forget to flip it about half-way through baking!

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A parting statement from Josette: It’s very delicious. I believe that you will love it. Try it out one day and let me know what you think. Thank you, Josette, for sharing this great recipe with us!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 – 5 small to medium whole red snappers
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow red pepper
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + 1 more for oiling the pan
  • 1/2 red wine
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE

  • Scale and clean fish, slash body of each fish diagonally. Rub fish with salt, dredge through wine, dredge through lemon juice. Set aside for 15 – 20 minutes.
  • Make marinade: process onion, peppers, garlic, parsley, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper in food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Rinse fish with cold water. Add marinade, add more salt and lemon juice (to taste). Mix well, making sure all fish are covered. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Oil deep baking pan. Place fish into baking pan, bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Turn fish over after 20 minutes.
  • Serve hot with vegetables.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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99 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you so much, Jovina, I am glad you like it!

      Like

  1. Very interesting read and the recipe looks fabulous! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, Ronit, your word means a lot to me! More Haitian recipes coming up…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging.

      Like

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alwys with a great pleasure, and many thanks for the nice recipies. Sorry, today we had some Online-abstinence. 😉 Michael

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nothing to apologize for, and thank you for your kind words1

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Elizabeth says:

    You have such lovely fish recipes that, on some level I long to try. But, Dolly, it’s FISH! lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry, dear friend! However, I was told that this traditional Haitian marinade is used for poultry and meat as well, sometimes supplemented by Scotch Bonnet peppers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Elizabeth says:

        I will have to try it on chicken. In spite of the fact that I need to eat (and feed Mr. C) more fish I struggle with it. But even with my anti-fish stance the recipe looked good. Maybe I’ll overcome my fish phobia soon.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. If you have that strong of a fish phobia, as you call it, isn’t there anything else you could eat – and serve – to replace fish, in terms of nutrients?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Elizabeth says:

        I’d have to research what could possibly replace fish. I know fish is so good for us. I think what I need to do is use the creative ways folks like you use to make fish. There are several non-fishy tasting fish out there. And with the right treatment they’d probably be very tasty!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You are just like my younger son: he’ll eat fish if it doesn’t smell or taste “fishy.” I can tell you that, with all the flax seed, kale, and walnuts, the only way to fully replace fish is by using supplements, and I don’t think you are in a position to do that. However, marinating or even scrubbing fish with lemon juice takes most of the smell away.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Elizabeth says:

        Even if I could do supplements I know they’re not as good as the real thing. I’m going to try cooking more fish. It’s not as if I can throw it away and make something else! lol

        Liked by 1 person

      6. For what it’s worth, my son claims that Moroccan fish is not “fishy,” but in his perception, anything with lots of Jalapeno peppers in it is already Moroccan.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Off to the market to get some fresh red snappers!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Sasha! I think I’ll make them this way also when my husband catches some, rather than throwing them on the grill, like I usually do.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. spearfruit says:

    Great recipe Dolly – but I must tell you, I absolutely enjoy your history lessons. Happy Monday! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, Terry, I am so glad you like my funky writing! Happy Monday to you too, dear!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ditto! The recipes all look marvelous, but I adore the history lessons. Do you think we might have a bit of haitian blood, Terry, fascinated by education as we are?
      xx,
      mgh
      (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
      ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
      “It takes a village to educate a world!”

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I love red snapper!! The end.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do too, when my husband catches it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Joëlle says:

        Nothing like fresh fish! Take it from someone who lives in the middle of nowhere, I mean, the middle of France 😄
        Nice recipe, my husband and I like marinating food before cooking it. As a matter of fact, yesterday we had broiled marinated chicken gizzards for lunch ( HIS treat).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ohhh, I love chicken gizzards! I am sure both of you enjoyed the treat!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed! Have a great week!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Mama mia!!!…yummy sight. I’m salivating already.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! now go catch your self some snappers and make it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha….I’ll do just that.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the link and the shout out! I just went there and left a comment.

      Like

  7. Hemangini says:

    WOW… Love the historical background you talked about before the dish recipe & did you say fried fish is sold by street vendors? I am moving Haiti to my top 3 in the countries to visit. Just love fried fish. 😀 Thanks again for the wonderful history, loved it. You got a fan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear, I am so glad you like it!

      Like

  8. Christy B says:

    Your introduction to the recipe was very educational!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Christy!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh I want to try this out, sound delicious. Thanks so much for your blog, I am glad I found it. Looking forward to follow you 🙂 You are amazing with how much you give 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Nina, I am so glad to welcome you in my virtual kitchen!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much 🌞🌼🌼🌼

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My pleasure! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. The suspense mounts. Nothing new about Haiti YET, but I do have some questions I always forget to ask but always wonder.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    * How much time does it add to getting the food on the table to photograph as you go? (wonderful photos, btw)
    * Everything is always presented so beautifully – plates, serving dishes and all. Is that just for the camera, or do you regularly set a gorgeous table? For your many company dinners, or also when it’s just the two of you (and the kitties)?
    *Noticing the pleasing contrast of the beets next to the fish, do you always choose your side dishes to please the eye, or does the palate win in “real life” even if the visual is not as pleasing? What about the garnishes?
    xx,
    mgh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for complimenting my photos, although I have

      Like

    2. Got cut off – to continue:
      I don’t know what people find in my photos: I simply click with my phone, sometimes assisted by Barmalei. It’s not even a Smartphone – it’s a dumb old blackberry. As to how much time it takes, it depends on the number of ingredients involved, as well as the number of steps in preparation. At a guess, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.
      I don’t know about “gorgeous,” but these are the dishes I use for company. I am into antiques, and I have been fortunate to find some real gems in thrift stores and garage sales. Some of the simpler ones, like the plain white with gold border that you see in some photos, are used every day, for just the two of us. Kitties get to eat a special treat out of a fancy human saucer on Friday morning. Silverware and silver serving dishes are my grandmother’s, used only for company because silver is very heavy and laborious to polish.
      I hope you realize that this fish is not mine; I indicated in the post that pictures had been provided by my student. However, I do always try (in real life) to make food look appetizing, including sides and garnishes. I more or less design composition of a plate as still life for a painting. Of course, I am near a professional food artist, such as Sumith of keralas.live, but I have had some art education, so I guess it helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your art education serves you well. You truly have an amazing eye for framing the shot – which, to me, is what makes photos amazing, not the tech specs.

        I seem to “jerk” or something when I snap – I don’t exactly cut off heads, but I never seem to get what I saw in my mind’s eye when I do it. Certainly nothing I’d share online (even if I could make my iPhone give it up!)
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I do edit a little, to the best of my abilities, in terms of centering composition, blending colors, brightness, etc. All of it very amateurish, believe me!

        Like

      3. These fritter look delish, but I’m not sure if I would recognize a malanga root if I tripped over it. Is it like a sweet potato?

        As always, Dolly, the history lesson/intro was fascinating – tho’ (as a member of a non-indigenous, “conquering” demographic) heartbreakingly embarrassing.

        I especially love the clever way you use those historical factoids to help us remember what to do and why in the kitchen, recipe by recipe.

        Thanks for letting us know that you posted today.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You are not French or Spanish, so there is nothing to be embarrassed about. In any event, those were the realities of life, and we have to face them.
        Malanga is of the same family as yams and sweet potato (those two are different, by the way), and you’ll recognize it by the photo. The biggest attraction to me in this recipe is that malanga is gluten free. It took time to research the name Accra, as it is a capital of Ghana, and the Ghanian and Senegalese fried accra recipes are totally different, but I couldn’t find the origins, other than the fact that slaves were brought from several places, including Ghana and Senegal. I finally gave up on searching and wrote it the way you see it.
        I have the last one of Haiti set to be posted, with a unique and fascinating recipe. Then I’ll do the “faces” one.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Sweet potatoes and yams taste similar to me (at least the canned versions do – I’ve never had a “fresh” yam). If the malanga is similar, I’m wondering if sweets could be used instead.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I don’t know about canned versions, but sweet potatoes have much less sugar and starch than yams, and a lot more beta-carotene. They actually belong to different families of veggies – not even close cousins. Malanga is not sweet and doesn’t have gluten. I am sure the same recipe would be delicious is made with sweet potatoes, but in terms of nutrition it will be different.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Thanks! Next time I go to Krogers I shall ask if one of the “sweet potato” varietals they carry is, in fact, a melanga.

        I wasn’t aware that sweet potatoes contained gluten – I’m off to check that out.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Sweet potatoes don’t, but yams does. However, I don’t know about canned stuff, unless it’s labeled GF. Malanga looks black, not orange.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Black? Interesting – I don’t believe I have actually seen them at my Krogers.

        btw- I no longer eat canned sweets OR yams at home and haven’t since my early undergrad days – but have been exposed to both at many a Thanksgiving table through the years. 🙂
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      10. If you look at pictures, the skin is black, but the flesh is white.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Like when a banana goes black – does it start out that way or ripen to that color?
        xx,
        mgh

        Like

      12. They don’t “go black”; they start out brown and hairy and then darken as they mature, sort of like people. I was just told that you could use parsnips or turnips instead.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Wouldn’t you think, since I’ve been eating all my life and have never been what might be called a “picky” eater, there would be little left to discover about different kinds of foods? Yet I am learning so much about food and food preparation from you. Thank you.
        xx,
        mgh
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      14. My pleasure! And I am also learning something new today: we have a new baby cat, rescued by a police officer in the middle of the night. She (we think it’s a girl, but we are not sure) is slowly adjusting, but our two guys are not happy, especially Barmalei. I am off today, so I am on cat duty. She is about 4 weeks old and meows non-stop which annoys Barmalei, who is used to ruling the roost and maintaining decorous behavior. Hopefully, they’ll accept her.

        Liked by 1 person

      15. Oh I hope so too – so tiny, and probably scared. How did the poice officer know to take her to you guys? Have you posted a photo yet? I’m off to check.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      16. We were taking our nightly walk, coming back from Ocean Drive. Police dept is across the street from our house. We saw this huge handsome young Latin cop holding something in his arms, squeaking (the kitty was squeaking, not the cop). Apparently, he heard squeaking in the bushes, got her out, and didn’t know what to do, other than take her to a pound. When we heard the “p” word, we said we were taking her. I took her, and she immediately calmed down. She looks like baby pictures of my husband – same coloring, same green eyes. No pics yet – she is hiding in corners.

        Liked by 1 person

      17. My dad said that he rarely saw one of his rescues for months – only knew she was there because she was eating, and he’d occasionally catch a glimpse of a tail.

        After a while she began to hide under his easy chair, then allowed a stroke or two — and eventually became the most affectionate of his 7 kitties.

        You read that right – SEVEN – all vet rescues (every visit, it seemed, he came home with another)
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      18. I have noticed that kids who are almost asocial with people have strong feelings for animals. Perhaps that was the case with your dad as well. I’ll never forget the day turkey vultures descended on our school yard during recess. We immediately took all kids inside, but one refused to go and ran towards the vultures. I ran after him, screaming, “Levy, come back! Go in!” Without stopping, he calmly replied, “I will in a moment, I just want to say Hello to nice birds.”
        Have you ever seen those “nice birds”? They are the ugliest creatures G-d created! Not to Levy, though.
        Little Pyshka is so tiny that we don’t even see the tail, but she has a good set of lungs and highly developed vocal cords. We hear her, loud and clear!

        Liked by 1 person

      19. You’ve named her Pyshka – she’s yours for sure. NOW to get B&B on board with it.

        Good insight into my dad. He was a real softie for animals – and tiny kids, btw. He simply didn’t seem to understand that, as they grew slightly older, they didn’t mature as fast as the other animals – lol. He seemed to relate as if they were defective adults. 🙂
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      20. We named her right away, and in case it’s a boy, there is a male variation of the name. Pyshka is a sweet roll, fluffy and golden. That’s what she looks like.
        Oh yes, we had a teacher who had a baby every summer, for 5 years without fail, and start the school year with a baby in a basket on top of her desk. Visiting Morah Eleanor’s “baby in a basket” was the best therapy for everybody!

        Liked by 1 person

      21. New life – always uplifting and hope-filled. So now you have your very own fuzzy baby in a basket to help you heal.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      22. True. At the moment, she burrowed into a hole underneath the mattress made by Beba a while ago and is singing from there. What a coloratura soprano!

        Liked by 1 person

      23. How apt – you love opera.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      24. We do – our first “official date” was at the Met.

        Liked by 1 person

      25. Impressive. What did you see?

        I’m not a big fan of opera, but I did see Zeffirelli’s Bohème there with my jazz musician beau at the time, both of us dressed to the nines.

        It was magnificent – in particular his staging of the street scenes below the rooftops on that set, which was incredible. The entire production was a work of genius, IMHO.

        When we broke for intermission, we walked out of the dark theatre where it had begun to snow on-stage to see that it had started to snow outside. Magical. (You know Lincoln Center, so I’m sure you can imagine the effect through all that glass).

        Those were wonderful years. I treasure many amazing memories of my time in New York – nothing else quite like it.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      26. He took me to see The Queen of Spades, with star Russian cast. It was a one-night visit of Bolshoy stars in the Met production. To this day I don’t know how much he paid for those tickets, but it was incredible!
        When we got our adopted son (we fostered him at first), I home-schooled him for the second part of that school year. His reward for completing an assignment that I would leave for him before going to work was 30 minutes of watching an opera in the evening. This way, we split one opera to last an entire week.

        Liked by 1 person

      27. Lucky child indeed to have been raised and loved by you – and no wonder you fell in love with your husband. He had wooing down to a science! I’m especially impressed he was able to plan ahead, given “the usual” with ADD follow-thru. I’m sure those tickets sold out early.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      28. Ha! You guessed it – of course he didn’t plan ahead; he paid a fortune to a broker!
        And my husband is a charmer and has been quite a ladies’ man, modeled, no doubt, after his father, may he rest in peace (did I tell you I loved my father-in-law?)

        Like

  11. RobbyeFaye says:

    Wow, fascinating history!
    The fish looks scrumptious, but I wouldn’t be able to handle it with the head still on!
    I am going to try the marinade soon. I think I will try it on chicken, too.
    I enjoy your site!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear, I am so glad you like it! Yes, the same traditional Haitian marinade is used for chicken and meat. You can get fish already scaled, cleaned, and the head taken off!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. RobbyeFaye says:

        You are welcome.
        Trust me on the fish, that’s the way I would go! My Dad fished when I was little (it was one of our main staples along with the garden we had) and I did plenty of cleaning, gutting, etc. of fish back then. MORE than enough to last me a lifetime, LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I see what you mean, definitely! When my husband wants fish, he has to catch it, and HE has to clean it. Then I cook it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. RobbyeFaye says:

        LOL, I don’t blame you at all!!

        Like

  12. K E Garland says:

    Very nice tribute 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. oldpoet56 says:

    Great story, I enjoyed it. Great food, written by a wonderful Author. I am going to reblog this article for you Dolly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Ted! I hope you are well. Have a great weekend!

      Like

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Like

  14. Deidre Brathwaite says:

    Great read. Am defintely ging to try this recipe this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Deidre; I am so glad you like it! Let me know how it comes out, please!

      Like

      1. Deidre Brathwaite says:

        Will do.

        Liked by 1 person

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