tilapia tacos with fresh tomato salsa

It seems lately I’m ever so slightly bordering on obsessed with fish tacos.  I’ve pinned ump-teen recipes to my Pinterest board, I’ve bookmarked a bunch in my favorites bar, and I’ve cooked them…a lot…recently.  If there’s any kind of taco I’m happy to eat, it’s fish.  Don’t get me wrong.  It would be my worst nightmare to be served up a plate of Rubio’s fish tacos and ordered to eat!  First, it’s a chain restaurant and fast food, at that.  Second, while I understand it’s a popular place for fast (see above) fish tacos, crunch the numbers on the Original Fish Taco (2 taco plate) and you’ll devour 620 calories, 360 or which are from fat, 40 grams of fat, 50 mg of cholesterol, and 780 mg of sodium.  Which is why I make them myself.

Being able to control portion size and ingredients is a huge deal.  And, believe me, it doesn’t have to be breaded and deep-fried in artery-clogging oil to taste good.  This recipe is the perfect example of how a variety of spices and minimal oil can come together to create a mouth-watering meal without all the fat and calories that come standard at your local fast food taco joint.  This recipe went together really fast.  I made the rub ahead of time and refrigerated it for a couple of hours.  The recipe doesn’t say you need to do that, but I thought the fish had a truly developed flavor because it had been resting in the spices for a longer period of time.

The salsa was bright and lively, too.  I threw on some fresh cilantro from our garden just before serving, and gave an extra squeeze of lime juice, too.  Low-fat and delicious.  So much better than fast food.  Enjoy!

2014-02-25

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Tilapia Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa (recipe courtesy ActivewearUSA)

Taco Ingredients:

  • 4 tortillas
  • ½ pound tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour the herb and spice mix into a resealable plastic  bag.  Add the tilapia fillets and shake until the fish is completely covered.  Set aside to infuse with flavor.
  2. Pour 1 teaspoon of olive oil into a pan over medium heat and add the onion and corn.  Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, or until the onion is soft and the corn begins to blacken.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Be careful not to scorch.
  4. Remove the tilapia fillets from the Ziploc bag and place them into the pan, using a spatula or spoon to divide the fish into bite-sized pieces as the fish cooks.  Place a lid on top of the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring half way through.
  5. While the fish is cooking, prepare the salsa by roughly chopping the tomatoes and onion into small pieces.  Add them to a bowl with the minced garlic, lime juice, red wine vinegar and coriander, stirring until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. When the fish is solid white and flaky, warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave.
  7. Divide the tilapia, onion and corn mixture evenly between them. Serve immediately with salsa for topping.

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grilled cod with lemon, mint, and basil

If I’m going to be committed to tracking and sharing the recipes I thought were great…or, even good, a couple recent efforts left me with the niggling idea I should also track and share recipes I thought had potential…even if they didn’t live up to my expectations when I made them.  After all, cooking and photographing takes a bit of effort.  It’s time I sometimes don’t even have (ask my husband, who has sat patiently waiting to eat while I shoot one, last picture of the plated meal before the light gets bad).

In the current case, I didn’t shoot any prep shots because it was one of those days we were running behind and I just really needed to get dinner moving.  But I had time to plate and shoot.  Then came the eating and the point at which I thought, thank goodness I didn’t spend a bunch of time shooting the prep for this average recipe.

Because that’s what I thought it was:  average.  Not because I don’t like fish.  I do.  And, not because I don’t like lemon and basil and olive oil.  I do, I do, I do.  What I discovered upon eating this dish is how much I dislike mint.  Or, at the very least, how much I dislike mint in this quantity.

That’s where I started thinking I should share it with this caveat:   Too.  Much.  Dang.  Mint!   Three tablespoons of mint was simply overpowering.  Granted, cod is a relatively bland, yet buttery-textured fish.  It has great potential for any preparation, whether grilled, poached, or pan-seared.  And this recipe could have been great had it not been for the mint.

With that said, this is what I’d do differently next time:  leave out the mint entirely and substitute chives, for instance, or flip-flop the proportions by using three tablespoons of basil, which I adore, and only one tablespoon of mint.  Either way, the overwhelming taste and smell of mint needs to be eliminated.  Unless, of course, you love mint, which might find you preparing this fish exactly as the recipe suggests.  It’s a blank canvas.  Have at it and enjoy!

Grilled Cod with Lemon, Mint, and Basil (recipe courtesy Healthy 100 @ Florida Hospital)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 (4-oz.) cod fillets

Directions:

1. Preheat grill to medium.  In a small bowl whisk together oil, lemon juice, mint, basil and garlic, reserving half for sauce.  Brush one side of each fillet with lemon and herb mixture.

2. Place fillets on grill. Grill 4 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Transfer fillets to a serving platter, drizzle with remaining lemon and herb sauce, and serve.

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parmesan crusted tilapia

While putting this post together I realized we eat an awful lot of tilapia.  In fact, in 2012, the U.S. imported about 500  million pounds of it.  That’s a lot of fish considering tilapia is generally considered, despite being high in protein and low in fat, to offer the least return on investment if you’re trying to eat more Omega 3s.  For example, salmon has 10 to 15 times the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids as a serving of tilapia.

Overall, though, a serving of tilapia will go a long way in replacing a cheeseburger and fries in terms of healthy choices.  The key seems to be to rotate your fish selections to make sure you’re getting enough Omega 3s, and make sure you know the source of the fish.  Generally, if you’re eating farm raised tilapia (which seems to be about all that’s out there), U.S. farm raised is superior.  An article I read came down pretty hard on farm raised tilapia from South America and China, noting the lack of aquaculture regulation and poor habitat conditions.

On that note, a tilapia recipe.  Honestly, I do serve it a lot for the reasons noted in almost every article I read:  it’s plentiful, relatively inexpensive, easy to cook, and has a neutral taste – which is especially important if you’re cooking for kids who have…sensitive noses?  But I’ve also enlightened myself a little bit about broadening the types of fish I’ll serve to make sure we’re fully benefiting from the addition of more fish in our diet.  So, find yourself U.S. sourced fish and pop an Omega 3 supplement after dinner, because this recipe was a keeper.  Or, try it with halibut, walleye, or whitefish (can you tell I’m a Great Lakes girl?).

Calling this recipe  “crusted” was a bit of a stretch.  This really is more of a sauce, but an additional sprinkling of parmesan a few minutes before the fish is finished under the broiler might give it a bit more crunch.  Nonetheless, the end product was really flavorful.  It was quick to prep, making it perfect for a mid-week meal when most families find it hectic to sit down for dinner.  I served it with some broiled asparagus and a side of pearl couscous and the grown ups gave it two thumbs up.  I’m still working on expanding the culinary horizons of the little one, though…slowly and steadily.  Enjoy!

2013-05-06

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Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (I used less)
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise (I used Reduced Fat Mayo with Olive Oil)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder (I used 1 tsp fresh onion, finely minced)
  • 1/8 tsp celery salt
  • 2 pounds tilapia fillets
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Directions:
  1. Preheat broiler.  Line baking pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes.
  4. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Be careful not to over cook the fish.

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Cook’s Note:  Reduce the butter.  You don’t need that much.  I think I used a little less than 3 Tbsp.  Also, I’d suggest heavy duty foil to line the baking pan to resist tearing with the spatula when you flip the fish.

teriyaki salmon

I originally found this recipe while scouring some boards on Pinterest and decided it sounded so good I would actually end my boycott of cooking salmon at home.  For the most part, I like salmon…when it’s done perfectly by a 5 star chef or my good friend, Vicki, back home in Michigan.  Aside from that, I’ve always been really skeptical of my own abilities to do it well.  Generally, I consider myself a pretty good cook, but salmon has always intimidated me.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s a strongly flavored fish, or because it’s too expensive to risk screwing up.  Either way, I’ve always shied away from it – despite all proven health benefits of eating more salmon.

The teriyaki is what intrigued me about this recipe.  It seemed like a flavor that would stand up well to the strong salmon flavor I’ve always feared.  And it do so beautifully.  The finished product was as delicious as it was pretty!  You’ll see, though, I used steaks instead of the suggested fillets, which was my mistake.  The steaks were much thicker and required extra care in baking, and they also had a lot more bones.  Next time I’ll definitely use the fillets.  Enjoy!

Teriyaki Salmon
adapted from My Father’s Daughter, by Gwenyth Paltrow (via Milk & Mode)

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated ginger
  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 4 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh chives, for serving

Combine the soy sauce, white wine, sugar, honey, water, ginger, lemon juice, and cilantro in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool until it’s just warm to the touch. Pour into a plastic freezer bag and add the salmon. Turn the bag a few times to coat the salmon, and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (can also be marinated overnight)

To cook the salmon, preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray lightly with cooking spray, and arrange the salmon in a single layer with whatever sauce adheres to it. Broil 6-8 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork and is just cooked through. While it’s cooking, strain the extra sauce into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce until thick and syrupy.

To serve, drizzle the cooked salmon with some of the extra sauce and a sprinkle of chives.

artichoke-parmesan stuffed tilapia

I promise this will be the last tilapia recipe for a while, but tilapia is a blank canvas and we eat it more than any other fish.  This probably has a lot to do with the fact my door-to-door meat guy; the guy who sells me the most amazing shrimp and beef fillets, also shows up on occasion with a case of tilapia – cheap!  They’re always beautiful and fresh tasting, so I can’t resist.  If he showed up with delicious halibut steaks, well, you’d be reading about halibut!

My mom actually came for a visit recently with this recipe tucked in her carry-on bag.  I can’t recall the original source, but any recipe with the word “artichoke” in it is true love, in my book.  I’ve made it a couple of times and both times thought the flavor was really nice, but the texture of the “stuffing” is too dry.  That can probably be chalked up to my own choice of whole grain bread and my unswaying belief grainier is better.  This theory might not be true for this recipe.  I’d suggest going with a whole grain bread that’s a little less hearty and doesn’t stand up nearly so well to the moisture from the artichokes and the cheese.

The finished product (with a little tweaking on the stuffing) is delicious and a great, healthy meal.  Nutritional info on this recipe reported 241 calories, 40 grams of protein, and only 7 grams of fat.  Enjoy!


Artichoke-Parmesan Stuffed Tilapia
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 thin (5-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 1 (6-ounce) jar water-packed marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
  • 1 slice whole-grain bread, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
Preparation:
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of tilapia fillets; set aside.
  • Combine artichokes, bread cubes, Parmesan cheese, and oregano in a medium bowl; mix well.
  • Brush each fillet with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil; top with 1/4 of the artichoke mixture.
  • Bake until fish pulls apart easily with a fork (about 15 minutes).
  • Sprinkle each serving with 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley just before serving.

grilled tilapia marinade

I like to incorporate fish in to my recipe rotation as a good source of low-fat protein.  Since I no longer have access to a bevy of fresh freshwater fish – white fish, walleye, perch, etc., I’ve adopted tilapia as my go-to fish because of its mild (some say flavorless) flavor.  What I like about tilapia is it’s a bit of a blank slate in terms of marinades and rubs.  While the fish itself is so mild as to seem flavorless to some, I think it takes to and holds the flavors and seasonings of a marinade or rub really, really well.

A few years back there was a big discussion in the health/food industry about whether tilapia, with a high content of omega-6 fatty acids (as well as omega 3s), was really considered “healthy.”  The down and dirty at an article I read from the Mayo Clinic was this:  eat tilapia, eat salmon, eat tuna, eat mackerel.  The health benefits outweigh the higher levels of omega-6 when eaten as part of a well-planned, nutritionally balanced diet.

This is one of my favorite marinades and, of course, you don’t have to limit its use to tilapia.  I think it would probably work just as well on a flank steak as fish.  If you like your marinade to have a little more kick, splash in a little extra hot sauce or red pepper flakes.  Enjoy!

Grilled Tilapia

Ingredients:

3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 to 5 dashes hot sauce
2 to 3 fresh Tilapia fillets

Procedure:
Combine all ingredients in non-reactive container, preferably with lid. Marinate fillets for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Place fillets on well-oiled, heated grill, approximately 4 to 5 inches from the fire. Grill roughly 5 minutes per 1/2 inch of fillet (measuring from thickest part of the fillet). Flip once halfway through the grilling time. Be very careful not to overcook.