Tilapia W/Citrus Sauce: A Favorite Meal
If you had asked me what my favorite food/meal was, oh say…ten or eleven years ago, I can guarantee you that meat would have been at the top of the list. In particular, beef. I learned at an early age that a good steak is hard to top and for the most part, I still agree with that 100 percent. In my late teens and early twenties, salmon snuck in there and hasn’t left the top 5 since. I went through a brief-but tasty-period when cheesecake came dangerously close to ousting everyone off the list, but I have since come to my senses and downgraded it to the level of things I really love but only eat in moderation. Like Eggs Benedict. Mmmm. Eggs Benedict…
When my husband was stationed in Hawaii, my whole culinary world changed. Fish, seafood, and fresh produce, the likes of which I had never tasted before, was now not only readily available, but literally all around me. I could get a mahi mahi burger at the local McDonald’s! The smoothie place just steps from my apartment used pineapples from the Dole plantation a few miles away. The Ono (or wahoo fish) we ate at restaurants had been caught that morning and tasted so fresh and so clean and so…amazing…I have never forgotten it. Moving to San Diego was much the same. And while I am totally a Midwestern girl at heart, fresh seafood and produce only hours old is a bit impossible when you are landlocked in the very middle of a large continent. I do love me some fresh water fish and there isn’t anything like a plate piled high with freshly caught walleye. But a life without shrimp and prawns, lobster, crab, mussels and oysters, tuna steaks, haddock, swordfish, salmon, mahi mahi, grouper, or tilapia is not the life for me. Those years on the Pacific changed me forever I have never looked at fish and seafood the same way since.
In addition to making sure the food I eat is sustainable (checkout this website for a handy dandy pocket guide for choosing fish and seafood) there are some items that are easier for me to obtain than others. I had noticed after moving to Illinois that tilapia was a very common fish in my fresh and frozen seafood sections. I had never cooked with it and it did not look very intimidating. So I brought some home, sprinkled on some salt and pepper and fried it up in some olive oil and butter. And my dinners have never been the same. Over time I have since slightly modified my technique and Pan-Fried Tilapia is a major favorite in our house. Favorite as in we have to pace ourselves at dinner, lest we look like a pride of lions tucking into a gazelle. Occasionally, I like to mix it up. Not because we ever get sick of it, but because I want to remind my kids that there are many different ways to eat one food. Last night, variety came in the form of a light citrus sauce made in a matter of minutes. It added no time at all to my dinner prep and took my fish from really good to fantastic. I find myself making this sauce primarily in the winter, but I don’t really know why. I suppose looking at all the citrus that is in season right now has something to do with it. Regardless, it is light and fresh and makes you feel like you are on a beach overlooking the Pacific. It may even make it to the top of your favorite foods list! Right up there next to mashed potatoes, lasagna, and your Grandmothers pound cake…One Year Ago: Smores Bars (Words cannot express how badly I want to eat these right now!)
Tilapia W/Citrus Sauce
Recipe adapted from Giada
The original recipe refers to the sauce as a bagna cauda, which in Italian translates to ‘warm bath.’ I have changed it ever so slightly to make it a bit healthier and almost always serve this with a brown rice pilaf or Lemon Thyme Orzo. Leftover sauce is awesome over boiled potatoes.
4-6 fillets fresh tilapia
salt and pepper
In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add:
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
Let slowly warm until anchovy paste is melted into the sauce then add:
2 T orange juice
zest of half an orange
zest of half a lemon
1 T chopped basil
Let everything get good and warm and taste for salt and pepper. Set aside. Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan and heat over medium to medium high. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and quickly fry in the oil, just a few minutes per side until just opaque and starting to flake. Place the fish on a serving dish and dump warm sauce over top.