A package of frozen tilapia in your freezer or a freshly wrapped parcel from your seafood market makes a quick, easy, and delicious dinner, which is also fish-healthy. Most tilapia recipes lean on the fact that this is a basic, easy-to-cook fish with a fairly neutral taste. Oven-baked with simple seasonings or a tasty sauce, grilled with spices, or deep-fried it's a great main course, but that is also a perfect ingredient for soups and stews.
A tilapia filet, seasoned and baked, is an easy and quick meal for a family or a single meal. This formula plus creative spices, sauces, veggies, and even fruit make it a dish you could eat every day. Take the cooked fish and use it in stews and soups for a light, tasty protein which balances against more delicate flavors for summer dishes yet it holds up to powerful tomato-based spicy compositions which warm you up in the fall and winter.
To keep things simple, use tilapia fillets. You can process the whole fish yourself, but it takes some expertise. Buy fresh fish from a seafood vendor who is knowledgeable and reliable for consistent quality. Cooking is simple: 10-12 minutes in the oven, seasoned and with a bit of butter or sauce, at 400 degrees F. When it's ready, these thin fillets will be fork-tender and white, not translucent.
For frozen tilapia, give it thirty to forty percent more time if you take it directly to the oven, or defrost for an hour in the fridge. It's generally nice and thin making cooking or defrosting fairly easy. If you've obtained some thicker tilapia fillets, add a bit more time accordingly, and check the finished fish carefully for cooking all the way through.
Lemon Pepper style is popular, served with fresh veggies and rice. Use two tablespoons melted butter, two teaspoons grated zest of a lemon and a tablespoon of the juice. This is enough to pour on a half-dozen filets, then sprinkle a teaspoon of garlic salt, one of paprika and twist your pepper mill over them all. Use standard tilapia baking time and temperature as mentioned. Garnish with green if you like.
Pan-fry the tilapia in medium-high temperature vegetable oil, about four minutes per side until a fork separates it easily. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Prepare the sauce by melting a bit of butter in a pan, then saute a tablespoon of garlic, a medium chopped onion, a strip-sliced carrot, a cup of mixed red and green bell pepper and a couple of inches of ginger sliced lengthwise. Add two cups of water and simmer for five minutes. Finally, mix in three tablespoons tomato paste, a half cup of vinegar and a half cup of brown sugar. Whisk about a tablespoon of cornstarch in a half cup of water and add it for thickening. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve.
Mix three tablespoons each of honey, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar and add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger plus a clove of garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the fish, then marinate in the sauce, refrigerated, for about twenty minutes. Pan-fry the fish in oil about four minutes per side, then reduce the remaining marinade for a glaze. Pour over the cooked fish and enjoy.
Mix a cup of parmesan cheese, three teaspoons of paprika, a tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley and a bit of salt and pepper until they are well blended. Spread the mixture in a pie plate or similar dish. Coat the fish lightly in olive oil, then tip each piece -- four or so -- into the cheese mixture. Bake as usual, ten to twelve minutes at 400 degrees F.
Simple and quick -- put two cans of chicken stock, about 30 ounces, in a large saucepan. Add two and a half cups of water and two-thirds cup uncooked rice, instant. Stir, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes. Add one and a half cups of salsa and a ten-ounce package of frozen corn and bring everything to a boil. Add a pound of tilapia fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces. Cover the pan and simmer for about five minutes, checking for the fish to flake easily. Add a bit more heat, lime wedges, or other veggies for variety.
Since tilapia cooks so quickly, it can be added to many soups and stews as a light protein which is ready when the soup or stew is. Just fork-test the fish to see that it flakes easily. It lends itself well to spicy dishes from Spain, Africa, South America, India or Asia.
Tilapia makes an interesting main course when deep-fried with spices, but the easiest way to prepare it is cooked at 370-degree oil with a beer batter. The batter is simply a mixture of flour, a dash of salt, and beer, mixed to pancake batter consistency. Dunk and drain fillets, fry them for five minutes, turn and cook just a bit more.
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