Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Category: fish (page 1 of 7)


In my family, we’ve always been fans of seafood. In some case, more so that meat. Reason for that goes back to when I was growing up in Spanish Harlem. At the time, fish was cheap compared to meat. This was something that harked back to life in the island of Puerto Rico where seafood was plentiful and meat expensive. That’s not to say that we didn’t like meat. My father always enjoyed  good a good T-bone steak but, when times were lean, it was seafood or shellfish that kept us going. The seafood dishes invariably were fish fillets that were plentiful and cheap in the old Marqueta on 116th street. The Marqueta is gone, but the memories remain.

Through the years I’ve discovered numerous ways to season fish fillets so that it never becomes boring.  Nothing cooks better than fish fillets with a repertoire of seasoning be it criollo seasoning or, for that matter any other herb-spice combination. Below, we give three seasoning recipes for fish fillets so that you can do a variety of dishes to please family and friends. You’ve got the traditional Nuyorican method, an Italian version, and a Greek version. Each has its own spark and verve, and none will disappoint.

In all cases, the fillets should be baked for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork in a 370 degree preheated oven.


4 boneless fish fillets, about 1¼ pounds
2½ tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
¾ cup and milk
1 tablespoon dark Puerto Rican rum (optional)
Half of a small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
1`/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste

  1. Rinse fillets and pat dry with pepper towels.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine2 tablespoons butter and flour over moderate heat and boil for 1 minute.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Add rum at this stage, if using.
  4. Lower heat and add onion, garlic, bay leaf, pepper and salt. Stir together for about 1 minute.
  5. Place fish in a greased baking pan. Pour sauce over fillets, dot top with remaining butter. Bake, uncovered, as noted above.


4 boneless fish fillets, about 1¼ pounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh leaf basil, crumbled or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  1. Rinse fillets and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, tomato paste, vinegar, basil, salt, pepper and garlic.
  3. Place fillets on a baking pan and spread seasoning mixture over fish. Bake, uncovered, as directed above.


4 boneless fish fillets, about 1¼ pounds
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh leaf oregano, crumbled or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Rinse fillets and pat dry with pepper towels.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon, juice, oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
  3. Place fillets on a baking pan and spread seasoning mixture over fish. Bake, uncovered, as directed above.



This is a recipe that I invented at the spur of the moment. I had some fillets on hand and needed a quicky dish for dinner. So, here is my version for Stuffed Salmon Fillets. As noted, I used salmon, but any firm fleshed fish fillets will do. Apart from the fillets, all you need is seasoned bread crumbs, and that’s it. For four regular servings, four fillets is all that’s needed., since the fillets will be cut in have to serve four people. If you have big eaters on hand, then you serve the stuffed fillets for two two people.

For the recipe you can either buy seasoned bread crumbs, or regular bread crumbs that you can season as you like. And that’s what I did. I seasoned the bread crumbs with ½ teaspoon each dried basil, marjoram and thyme. But you can use any seasoning combination you like. That’s the beasty of this dish: you can doctor it up any way you want. For the final touch I baked the whole shebang in a lemon butter sauce. And it came out superb. With some good crusty bread, and some good chilled wine, either a white or light red, it makes for a fabulous repast.



4 salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs (see above)
½ stick melted butter
Juice of 1 lemon


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Brush fillets with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and oregano. Place 2 fillets in a baking dish (we prefer cast-iron). Top each fillet with half of the seasoned bread crumbs. Top with remaining fillets. Combine butter with lemon juice, and drizzle over fish.
  4.  Place in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until fillets are tender.  Cut fillets in half and serve  or, as noted above, serve each stuffed fillets for two hearty eater.



I call this recipe ‘Marvelous Green Sauce.’  It goes specially well with fish, especially if fresh caught. Think of it as a green jade sauce since it also has a splendid  green color as well as taste. We recommend you prepare it several hours ahead of serving time to get a full blending of flavors. It’s a wonderful  summer meal when served cold over pouched or steamed fish. This time around we added pasta to the dish, using tagliolini, a type of ribbon pasta; but you can also use spaghetti, tagliatelle or capellini, or even rice with this dish. The sauce just makes it perfect.



1¼ cups mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup finely chopped spinach leaves
½ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
¼ cup finely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste (optional)


  1. In a bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream ,spinach, parsley, dill, scallions and lemon juice, Mix well.
  2.  Season with pepper and check to see it salt ifs needed. If so, add sparingly. Cover and chill thoroughly before serving. Flavors develop further during this time.
    Yield: 2½ cups (approx.)
    As noted above, in this recipe we served it over poached fish on a bed of tagliolini (or you can substitute any ribbon pasta).


I am a fan of Cajun cooking. Have been since the first time in my youth when I first heard Hank William’s ode to Cajun eats, the song  ‘Jambalaya.’ A little history first: ‘Cajun’ cuisine originated with the Acadians, French settlers who immigrated to Canada in the early 17th century and lived in what is known today as the Maritime Provinces, primarily Nova Scotia. Their cuisine, at the time, was inspired by rural French cooking. Then, in 1755, after refusing to swear allegiance to the British crown, most of them were deported to Louisiana, where they set up roots again and incorporated into their cooking most of the ingredients found in the South, which included crab, oysters, crawfish, bell peppers, and spices such as black pepper and cayenne. Add to that, influences from Spanish, Native American and African-American cooking, and you have the mix of Cajun cuisine today.

Cajun cuisine can be very spicy or mild, depending upon the ingredients and how much you use. For instance, in the recipe given, I prefer a hot, spicy rub. My wife prefers it mild. So, again, let your palette be your guide. I make enough spice mix to last me for a while, and leftovers can be stored as you would any spice or salad dressing.

Also, the recipe calls for a dry rub. I tweak it by adding olive oil to the salmon. I find it enhances the flavor.



4 salmon fillets, about 8-9 ounces each or 4 salmon steaks, about 1-inch thick
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon celery seed
5 bay leaves
3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon died oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Wash fillets or steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2.  In a mortar, crush peppercorns, cumin seeds, mustard seeds. Crumble the bay leaves with your fingers and add to mortar. Crush it until it mixes all together. If you have a large mortar, add paprika, cayenne oregano and thyme. If not, then mix everything in a small bowl.
  3. Season the salmon with the spice mix, and then brush with olive oil  Heat grill to medium , about 370 degrees to 400 degrees F. Grill salmon on each side until seared and golden. If using fillets, cook skin side first for 4 minutes. Turn and cook 4 minutes more. Note that both  sides should show grill marks. If using salmon steaks, grill 4-5 minutes per side. Grill the salmon over direct heat with the grill closed. Remove  from heat and serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
    Yield: 4 servings.

SALMÓN EMPANADO (Broiled Salmon)

This recipe is one of the easiest ways to prepare salmon, be it salmon fillets or salmon steaks. It was immensely popular with our family when  I was growing up back on the block in Spanish Harlem. It is also very versatile in that if you want to cut corners even more, you can skip the bread crumbs given in the recipe and broil the salmon as is with the condiments. But I like the crunchiness the crumbs bring to the dish.

It should be noted that I broil my salmon fairly close to the heat source, about 2-3 inches. Thus the initial broiling time is cut down to no more than 6-7 minutes. It should also be noted that this is one of the recipes included  in my first cookbook Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Running Press).


4 salmon fillets, about 6 ounces each
(Note: if using salmon steaks, they should be about ½-inch thick)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons Puerto Rican rum, light or dark (your choice)
½ cup light bread crumbs


  1. Preheat broiler to high.
  2.  Rinse salmon fillets and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Brush both sides of fillets with olive oil. Place in a slightly greased broiler pan (we prefer cast-iron).
  4.  In a small bowl, combine  butter, salt, pepper, garlic, rum and bread crumbs.
  5.  Put half of bread crumb mixture on top of salmon (skin side), and broil  2-3 inches from hear source for 3 minutes.
  6.  Carefully turn over salmon with a spatula. Put on the remaining crumb mixture. Broil 4 minutes longer.
    Yield: 4 servings.


This is one of the easiest ways we know of cooking salmon: simple roasting in a skillet. In this case, a cast-iron skillet. You can try it in a non-stick pan or other, but it won’t be as good. Something about cast-iron develops the flavor.

This recipe renders  salmon fillets that are rich, crisp and juicy with a minimum of effort; and the cooking time is minimal.


4 salmon fillets, about 6-8 oz. each or one 2-pound large fillet, cut into 4 portions
Salt and black ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges for garnish

  1. Heat oven to 500 degrees F.
  2. Rinse fillets under cold running water and pat  dry with paper towels.
  3.  Generously season fillets with salt and pepper. Set a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add oil to skillet and immediately lay in salmon, skin-side down. Cook 30 seconds.  Remove skillet from heat and place it in oven. Cook until medium-rare, 5-6 minutes, or 1-2 minutes longer for medium-cooked. Do not flip salmon or move it in skillet until cooking is complete.
  4.  Remove skillet from oven and use a large spatula to transfer salmon to a serving platter, skin-side up. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.




This is one of my innovations. I had some salmon steaks on hand plus some good fresh red onions (also known as Spanish onions). I decided to combine the two; and the result is given below. I find that red onions have a sharper flavor than common yellow onions. That’s what makes them great for this dish.

Served with a grain like rice, quinoa or couscous, the dish is a winner. It’s also great by itself with good crusty bread, potatoes or a side vegetable.


4 salmon steaks (about 8 ounces each)
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Rinse salmon steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels
  3. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Place in a baking pan or dish (we prefer cast-iron). Drizzle with lemon juice and top with onion slices.
  4. Place in oven and bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
    Yield: 4 servings.


What to do with cucumbers? A time honored question. Cukes are more than just for salads or burgers on a Sunday outing. They also make a great sauce, as envisioned in the recipe given: a very simple medley of cucumbers, herbs, lemon juice and sour cream. Just pour the sauce over white fish fillets such as cod, turbot, tilefish, halibut, flounder, grouper, etc. You get the idea. Just coat the fish with the sauce and broil. And, it goes without saying, the sauce is also great over chicken.

This dish is good with potatoes, a vegetable or any grain. This time around we served it with couscous.



4 fish fillets (about 1/2 pound each)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon finely minced chives
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sour cream


  1. Rinse fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a bowl, combine oil, vinegar, chives, lemon rind, salt and pepper. Place fish in a baking dish. Spread seasoning mixture over both sides of fish. Let stand at least 45 minutes.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Sauté the shallot over medium heat until golden. Reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Broil fish fillets, about 4 minutes per side.
  5. Meanwhile, add cucumber and thyme to shallots. Cook 2 minutes. Add lemon juice and sour cream. Cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Do not allow to boil. Spoon over fish and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.



This dish is a family favorite. We like it because it’s one of the easiest ways to cook salmon.  Just mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and that’s it. Initially we would bake the salmon fillets at 375 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes. Later on I discovered that the salmon could also be broiled, an even quicker method of preparation—and that’s how we’re serving it today. Back on the block, we would serve the fillets over white steamed rice, or yellow rice. This time around we’re pairing it with farro, that ancient whole-grain popular in Italy. But, whatever side dish you prefer, you won’t be disappointed with the piquant delicious nature of these fish fillets.

Note that, in our family, we always referred to pepper, ground or otherwise as pimiento. If you check a Spanish dictionary, it is noted as pimienta. In other words. a feminine pronoun. For linguistic purists, my apologies, but I’ll stick with the family designation. To us, pepper was pimiento, and what can I say? Just enjoy the dish.

(Lemon-Pepper Salmon)


4 salmon fillets with skin (about 6-8 ounces each)
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
fresh chopped rosemary or tarragon for garnish


  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Rinse fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Mix oil, lemon juice, pepper and salt in a bowl with a fork until blended.
  4.  Place salmon fillets in a greased broiler pan (we prefer cast-iron), 6 inches from heat source, skin side down. Drizzle half of the juice mixture over the salmon and place in the broiler for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from broiler and drizzle remaining oil mixture over the fish and top with slices of red onion.
  6.  Place salmon back in broiler. Turn off the broiler and let salmon stand for 5 minutes or until the edges of the fish turn golden brown and flake with a fork. Garnish with rosemary or tarragon and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.


One if my favorite recipes is breaded fish fillets. It’s an easy dish to make, and delicious. Another go-to recipe is fish fillets baked in yogurt (or a combination of yogurt and parmesan cheese). So I considered, why not combine breaded fish with yogurt? In this case, the yogurt is mixed with turmeric. This renders a nice sauce in which to cook the fillets. You’ll be amazed at the result. It is really good. This is a multi-dimensional dish that can be served by itself with some crusty bread, or with rice  or pasta.  Add a light red wine or good white wine, or even beer, and you have a winner.

For this dish you can use any good firm fleshed fillet, be it cod, turbot, halibut,  flounder, monkfish, etc. I would not recommend dover sole. It is just too mild and fragile for this recipe.



4 fish fillets, 6 ounces each
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ to 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 cup yogurt


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Rinse fish fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
  3.  Place beaten egg in one dish, and breadcrumbs in another.
  4.  Mix turmeric with the yogurt. The turmeric will give the yogurt a pinkish color. Set aside.
  5.  First, dip fillets in egg, and then in breadcrumbs to coat thoroughly. Place fillets in a greased baking dish. Cover with turmeric-yogurt mix,  and bake until tender, about 25 minutes.
    Yield: 4 servings.
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