Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tilapia - the gateway fish

Your body loves fish. Light, lean, tender, and flaky fish is beyond delish. If you are already dragging your mouse over to the "x" box just give me a second!
Reasons to LOVE fish
1. Healthy - A lean protien, most fish is low fat. The fats that are in fish are the kind that protect your tissues and brain (omega!)
2. Quick cooking - Less dense than other meats, fish cooks quick for last minute meals.
3. Economical - That what I said! Buying fish frozen or canned can be just as inexpensive as a chicken breast with far fewer chemical, hormones, and antibiotic additives. Compare tilapia to nice cuts of meat, or any organic meat and you'll be surprised!
4. Versatile - Chicken is just chicken. Beef is Beef. Fish is snapper, salmon, tilapia, trout, mahi mahi, etc. You can get it canned, frozen, filleted, whole, etc. The flavors can be mild to strong. Generally, the lighter the color the milder the fish. Oh imagine the possibilities! Give at least one of them a chance.
5. Clean - Ditch the salmonella stress that comes from working with most raw meats. Fish is a clean meat that doesn't carry/transmit as many diseases to your counter-tops as common farm animals. Tip - always opt for Pacific or Wild Caught rather than Atlantic or farmed fish whenever possible.
6. Highly digestible - Unlike beef, pork, and other dense meats, which ferment in your bowel since the body can't break them down, fish can be fully and efficiently digested. Therefore, the nutrients in fish actually absorb into your tissues. You feel charged after eating rather than sluggish from an overworked, mistreated, rotting digestive system. Your omnivorous digestive system is able to pass beef and pork but can actually process fish. Your insides were made for fish, not cow, pig, or other dense meat.

Fish Pit Falls
1. Fishy taste - either your fish was too old or it had the skin and fat intact. Fix - Buy your fish frozen. I know a lot of people think this is sacrilege. Yes, fresh fish is best but many times, the "fresh" fish at your grocer is no where near fresh. Just like vegetables, fish is frozen at it's freshest so if the fish counter isn't smelling so sweet, frozen can be a great option. Plus, it's always nice to have a good frozen fillet on hand for week night last minute meals. Thaw in room temperature water for several minutes and you are good to go.
2. Chewy - Simple! Don't cook it so long. Fish is a super quick cooking meat. If in doubt, under cook. Fish, like all meats, will keep cooking even after you remove it from a heat source. Undercooked fish won't kill you like chicken so stop stressing about it.
3. Intimidating - Buy fish by the fillet rather than whole and make sure it's skinned. Yes, there are a myriad recipes for whole fish, skin and all. However, I find you get the mildest, freshest flavor from a skinless fillet (super fresh or frozen), or boneless, skinless canned fish (salmon in particular).

The easiest, truest way to cook fish is in a couple tbsp of hot olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. With just a couple minutes on each side, most fish will be done. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, pepper, and a squirt of lemon and almost any fillet will be perfect. If you are having a mental block, just treat it like a thin sauteed chicken breast then subtract a little cook time.

If you're using your burners or don't want the clean-up of a pan, drizzle some olive oil on tin foil. Layer the foil with thin slices of lemon and/or onion (optional). Place the fillet on top. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Sprinkle on Kosher salt and pepper, add a few more slices of lemon/onion (optional), cover with more foil and crimp the edges to make a packet. Place in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees. Baking type with vary depending on type of fish, size, thickness, etc. Generally, 10 to 20 minutes will do the trick. Tip, work on a baking sheet so you have a solid base under the foil, which will keep it from tearing as you transport it in and out of the oven.

Tilapia is a friendly fish. Mild, inexpensive, sturdy, and sustainable, Tilapia is a gateway fish for both cookers and eaters.
1. Heat indoor/outdoor grill. Hot grates will keep the fish from sticking. If you're nervous about it, simply lay down foil first.
2. Drizzle fillets with oil (I like working with canola since it doesn't burn or smoke easily), sprinkle with Caribbean Jerk seasoning mix (check the label to avoid mono sodium glutamate/MSG and other chemical names you don't recognize). No seasoning mix? In a bowl large enough to dredge fillets, mix a tbsp or two of oil with simple Kosher salt, tish of ground red pepper, bit of grated garlic and onion, sprinkle of paprika, drip of honey. Mix with fork and drag fillets through the oil  and seasoning mixture to coat on each side (aka dredging the fish).
Place on hot grill for a few minutes on each side. You can check doneness by pulling apart the layers on one of your less pretty pieces. You want to see the wet translucent look fade into an opaque white. Done! Serve with black beans and brown rice, mango salsa, and shredded iceburg lettuce.
See what I mean? Easy!


  1. Looks great! I am a big fan of always takes on flavors rather nicely of other things that you have.

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

  2. I love tilapia, it's one of my go to fish.

  3. I'm convinced! But then, I already like fish. I just have trouble remembering which ones are sustainable and ok to buy. (Unfortunately, Pacific fish is rare over here in Europe!)