The number one New Year resolution is to lose weight – but that isn’t any fun, or is it? What if we could make healthy food that was actually really delicious? Low in fat, cholesterol, calories and carbohydrates, high in omega-3s and protein, and a source of niacin, selenium, vitamin B12 and potassium, this sounds too good to be true doesn’t it. But it is not only possible, it is easy to make and tasty to boot! Farm-raised tilapia is one of the most popular fish sold, and ranks fifth in the seafood consumed in America.
Tilapia is a mild freshwater fish, with firm white or red flesh and filets that are quite thin. This allows you to have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes, always a good thing when you have a hungry family to feed. Even people who don’t particularly like fish usually like tilapia. It isn’t a “fishy” fish. Get everything else ready and cook the fish at the last minute so it arrives at the table hot and crispy!
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch can help you make healthy choices – for your diet and the environment. In addition to the heart-healthy omega-3s, the following fish are also low in contaminants, and whose fishing or farming methods have minor impact on the environment. Some other good options are Albacore Tuna (Canada, US), Arctic Char (farmed), Atlantic Mackerel, Rainbow Trout (farmed), Sablefish/Black Cod (Alaska, Canada), Sardines (US), and Wild Alaskan Salmon. You can cook all of these fish using the technique in today’s recipe, or try roasting, grilling, or poaching too.
In addition to the health benefits of tilapia, by coating it with crushed pecans, you are adding even more nutritious ingredients. The only native American tree nut, pecans have been cultivated in this country since the late 1600’s. Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant found in pecans, may help protect neurological function, protect against cell damage, and fight diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and heart disease. As little as one handful per day is enough to help protect your nervous system. Pecans are packed with more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several of the B vitamins, and zinc. They are also a high source of protein that contain very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol. If you are on a salt-restricted diet, raw nuts are a wonderful snack.
I love to serve fish with a rice or orzo pilaf, maybe some creamy polenta, and when it is in season, fresh asparagus. Lucky for us, asparagus is absolutely perfect this time of year! Lightly steamed and tossed with sauteed shallots, I am one happy girl. The technique for pilaf-style rice is really quite simple. Heat oil or butter in a saucepan and saute any chopped vegetables you like. Add the rice (or orzo) and toss, making sure each piece is thoroughly coated with the fat. When the rice has gotten slightly golden, add water or stock and seasonings. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. The timing depends on the type of grain or pasta that you use. Remove from the heat and let sit with the lid still on for about 10 minutes to finish cooking the grain. Fluff with two forks and it is ready to serve!
Try adding seafood to your meal planning on a regular basis. Your body and your family will thank you!!
Kitchen Skill: How to Select Fish
When you are purchasing fish there are several things you want to look for to make sure it is fresh.
– If the fish is whole, you want the eyes to be clear and not cloudy and the gills (right behind the “cheeks” of the fish) should be bright red or pink
– It should smell like the sea, not at all fishy
– The flesh should be moist, not dry
– The color should be clean, not faded
– The skin should be be shiny, not dull and firm to the touch and not at all slimy-feeling
– If it is shrink-wrapped, make sure the wrap it taught and there is no sign of ice or blood
– If in doubt, buy frozen fish. This may sound odd, but IQF technology is so advance that frozen fish are often fresher than “fresh” fish being sold!
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- 4(6 oz) fresh tilapia fillets
- 1tsp salt
- 1/2tspgarlic powder
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp butter
- Rum-Butter-Citrus Sauce (see below)
- Lemon wedges for garnish
- Minced chives for garnish
- Process pecans in a food processor until finely chopped. Sprinkle fish fillets with salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Dredge fish in finely chopped pecans.
- (If you are having trouble getting the pecans to stick to the fish, you can dip the filet in some beaten egg and then into the chopped nuts.)
- Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add fish, and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until well browned and fish just starts to flake with a fork. Drizzle with Citrus Sauce. Garnish with lemon wedges and sprinkle with chives; serve hot.
- 3tbsp butter, divided
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 tbsp rum or additional fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Melt 1 tbsp of the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat; add shallot and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until shallot is tender. Reduce heat to low, and slowly whisk in remaining ingredients. Stir in remaining 2 tbsp butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Serve warm.
- Yield: Makes 1/3 cup