Celebrate the (more American than Mexican) festival of Cinco de Mayo with this SIBO-friendly, salsa-topped, fresh halibut. Ever cooked with cilantro stems? Now’s your chance. Ever wondered about the history of Cinco de Mayo? It’s not what you think…
Standing in front of a building peppered with bullet holes in the heart of the beautiful old city of Puebla, Mexico, I learned more about the history of “Cinco de Mayo” than they ever teach in the United States.
Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. Known as “El Día de la Batalla de Puebla” (the Battle of Puebla), May 5 is remembered as a brief but morale-boosting victory by the Mexican people in their efforts to halt French occupation of the city of Puebla. In short, it was one of the few times that the vastly outnumbered and out-equipped Mexican army was able to esist the French army.
Twelve days later, the French regained control of Puebla, then took Mexico City, and Mexico was under France’s control. Five years later, the Mexican people were at last truly victorious, and the country of Mexico became its own federal republic.
So why is Cinco de Mayo so popular in the United States? Says Jody Agius Vallejo, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California, when interviewed by the Associated Press, “It’s very similar to how Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day… a way they can honor their ethnicity, even when most don’t know why.”
Yes, history fascinates me. If it fascinates you too, learn more about Cinco de Mayo here.
Now… back to cooking…
Although I’ve called this a salsa, you get to choose: you can serve it fresh, or sauté it lightly before serving. I chose to sauté it to bring out more flavor.
1 fresh halibut fillet (preferably 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in quarters
Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
Optional: 1/8 to 1/4 tsp jalapeno pepper, minced*
1 TBL minced cilantro stems (stems add crunch and flavor to the sauce; use the leaves for garnish)
Kosher salt (add a bit, taste and adjust to your preference… salt and lime juice are a magical thing!)
Cook the halibut in whatever manner you prefer. During the summer, I grill outdoors on a cedar plank. During those spring days that still look and feel like winter, I pan fry the fillet with 2 tsp coconut oil (or any SIBO-friendly cooking oil) in a non-stick pan: flesh side down first, then flip and finish with the skin side down.
The length of time of either cooking method depends on how thick your fish is, how well your cooking appliance operates, and how “done” you like your fish. Generally speaking, it will take roughly 5-7 minutes to cook a fillet sized as indicated above.
As the halibut is cooking, combine all the ingredients of the salsa in a small bowl. If you want to keep the salsa fresh, place it on top of the fish after cooking / just before serving.
If you want to warm the salsa (as I did), add it to the pan around the fish during the second half of cooking (after you have flipped the fish to cook skin side down) and let the salsa warm for approximately 1 minute. This will flavor the skin side of the fish and release some juices from the salsa. After 1 minute, scoop the warmed salsa (and all its lovely juices) on top of the fish to soak in during the last few minutes of cooking: the juices from the warm salsa (combined with the remaining coconut oil from pan-frying the fish) will “melt” into the fish as it begins to flake open and finishes cooking.
Either way you serve it, top with fresh cilantro leaves in honor of all three colors of the Mexican flag. 🙂
Side Dish Suggestion:
I served this with a pan sauté of sliced delicata squash, red peppers, and a couple collard leaves (stems diced, leaves julienned) in coconut oil. If you prefer something more simple (and true to the Mexican flag colors), go with sautéed greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach) tossed with some diced red peppers.
*Be cautious when mincing a hot pepper: the chemical “capsaicin” (the stuff that causes all the heat) remains on the skin and will cause no end of pain if you touch, itch, or rub your eye, nose, or mouth. Wear disposable gloves, or wash your hands thoroughly with either vinegar or soap and water right after handling.