Chinese-Style Steamed Tilapia

The holiday season is entering its final week, and a lot of people already are looking for ways to get back on track as far as eating healthy. And there’s no better way than to give tilapia a try.

The fish, which is relatively new to American consumers, has become quite popular in recent years because it has a sweet, mild flavor and a firm, flaky texture. By some accounts, it  is one of America’s top 10 seafoods.

But more importantly, it’s a heart-healthy lean source of protein, which makes it perfect candidate for people looking to lose or maintain their weight.

A good example is my friend Connie Nelson, whose healthy-eating regimen has helped her lose almost 25 pounds in the past half-year. Recently, Connie told  me about a tasty tilapia dish called Fish in a Bag that she had at Red Lobster.

I’ve had the Red Lobster entree and can say it’s mighty tasty. I’ve also prepared the fish at home a few times and never have been disappointed.

Here’s another tilipia recipe I came across recently. It’s from Sarah Moulton, former executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years who also has spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”

Moulton says her recipe for Chinese-Style Steamed Tilapia is quick, healthy and delicious, and she recommends it for people who want a recovery from a month or two of holiday overindulgence.

Chinese-Style Steamed Tilapia
5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
3 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1¼ pounds tilapia fillets, cut into 4 portions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
3 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
½ large jalapeno chili or 1 serrano chili, very thinly sliced crosswise
In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the sake or sherry, ginger, 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil and the cornstarch. Transfer the mixture to a zip-close plastic bag, add the tilapi, then shake to coat the fish with the marinade. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water. Fit the pan with a steamer basket, then line the basket with foil. Coat the foil with cooking spray. Bring the water to a boil.
Remove the fillets from the bag then arrange them on the foil, folding if necessary to make them fit. Pour the marinade over the fish. Cover and steam the fish for 3 to 6 minutes, or until just cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over high, heat the vegetable oil until hot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the scallions and chili and cook for another minute. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Transfer the fillets to plates and spoon the mushroom mixture over them. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 330 calories, 52 percent of calories from fat, 20 gramms fat (3 grams saturated, no trans), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber; 2 grams sugar, 30 grams protein, 830 milligrams sodium.

Seafood Brodetto

A lot of recipes for fish soups and stews can trace their origins to the coastal areas of Italy where seafood reigns. One such dish is cioppino, the pride of many find California restaurants, which was derived from an fish soup called ciuppin, from the province of Liguria, an important fishing area on the Italian Riviera.

(Cookbooks from Italy describe ciuppin as a rustic relative of bouillabaisse — minus the saffron, Provencal herbs and Pernod.)

Another such seafood recipe that’s caught my fancy recently is brodetto. I had the Olive Garden’s version of it the other night and it very delicious. (Olive Garden describes it as scallops, shrimp and delicate tilapia with spinach and mushrooms simmered in a light white wine and marinara-saffron broth.) The stew was served with toasted ciabatta bread.

Almost all brodetto recipes feature a tomato base and a lot of seafood. Upon doing some research, I discovered one of the oldest recipes for brodetto comes from the Le Marche town of Ancona and calls for 13 different types of fish.

Here’s a brodetto, though not as elaborate as the Le Marche version, which I may have to try.

Seafood Brodetto
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/6 cup vinegar
1 cup white wine
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
½ pound tilapia, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ pound scallops
½ pound shrimp
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
To the pot, add the tomato sauce, vinegar, wine, water, tomato paste, and parsley. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.  Let the mixture come to a boil to burn off the alcohol from the wine.  Return to a simmer, cover, and cook about 30 minutes.
Add the fish, followed by the scallops and shrimp.  Cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.  If you are using pre-cooked shrimp, don’t add the shrimp until the last 5 minutes or so.  You want the shrimp to meld with the other flavors, but not overcook.  Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 3 to 4.

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Mango Salsa

Most people don’t think of salsa in the spring. That’s probably because the type of salsa they are most familiar with is the homemade variety that has a tomato base. And, as we all know, there are not many ripe home-grown tomatoes around here this time of the year.

But there are a lot of other kinds of salsa that don’t require tomatoes that are just as tasty, especially those made with fruit and other vegetables.

May is National Salsa Month, so why not try the following recipe, which combines tilapia with a spicy mango salsa that is sure to win friends.

This recipe is very healthy, too. Fish, of course, is generally low in calories, and the American Heart Association says eating it is a good way to get in servings of lean protein. And the fruit salsa contains mangoes, a good source of vitamin C.

Also of  nutritional value are two other ingredients — avocado and black beans. Avocado is a good source of monounsaturated fats, the ones that benefit good (HDL) cholesterol and help reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol. And the black beans are an excellent source of fiber.

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Mango Salsa
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 Roma tomatoes, washed, diced
1 ripe medium mango, seed removed, peeled and diced
½ cup diced red onion
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, diced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup canola oil, divided
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder or favorite chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
Sea salt to taste
4 skinless tilapia fillets (about 4 ounces each)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a heat-proof platter on the middle rack of the oven.
In a medium bowl, combine the beans, tomatoes, mango, red onion, avocado, lime juice, 2 tablespoons canola oil, cilantro and black pepper; toss gently. Let the salsa sit at room temperature while you cook the fish.
In a small bowl, mix ¼ teaspoon black pepper with the chili powder, cumin, oregano and about ½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste. Rub both sides of the tilapia fillets with the mixture.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat until hot. Working in batches, cook two of the tilapia fillets until lightly browned and the flesh is opaque and cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the fish to the platter in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining 2 fillets. Transfer the fillets to the platter, and spoon half of the salsa on top. Serve with the remaining salsa on the side.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 402 calories, 39 percent of calories from fat, 18 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 33 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 278 milligrams sodium, 57 milligrams cholesterol, 82 milligrams calcium, 12 grams fiber.

Fish Fajitas

During Lent, a lot of people are looking for tasty fish recipes that go beyond the traditional fish fry, tuna casserole or salmon loaf. Even more important to some is that the recipe be healthy.

Here’s a recipe that crossed my desk this week that certainly fits the bill in both categories. It’s for a baked fish fajitas.

Of course, we all know that baking is a lot healthier than deep-frying — and also less messy. This particular method — breading then roasting fish at high heat — provides crunchy texture similar to fried, while keeping it moist and flavorful. It’s served fajita-style by wrapping fish strips in a soft flour tortilla with sauteed onion, colorful red pepper and tomatillos with touch of cilantro, lime and strips of nutty cheese.

Shake-Bake Fish Fajitas
1 pound cod or tilapia fillet, cut lengthwise in ½-inch wide strips
¼ cup fine, unseasoned bread crumbs
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
8 tomatillos, husks removed, then quartered (or 1 cup chopped green tomatoes)
1 teaspoon cumin
4 large 10-inch flour tortillas
4 ounces Jarlsberg (or reduced fat version) cheese slices, cut in strips
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro, mixed with squeeze of lime
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In plastic bag, gently shake fish to coat with bread crumbs, salt and pepper and place on nonstick baking pan. Spray fish lightly with oil and roast 15 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes easily. In large nonstick skillet, saute onion, pepper and tomatillos with cumin until just tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer vegetables to warming plate.
Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide cheese evenly between tortillas; top with vegetables, fish and cilantro. If desired, serve with traditional tartar sauce or make a Tex Mex version, combining 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo with ½ cup mayonnaise.
 Yield: Serves 4.

Hot and Sour Tilipia with Rhubarb Sauce

The other days while looking through the freezer, I came across some rhubarb that we had frozen last fall. Most of the time, the frozen rhurbarb is used in a pies or crisps, but I was wondering what other tasty use we could find for it.

My search for a rhubarb recipe ended when I came across the following from McCormick, the spice people, in an e-mail. The rhubarb is used in a sauce for a hot and sour tilapia entree.

While the recipe calls for some spices and herbs from McCormick’s Gourmet Collection, I don’t think they are necessary. You could just go with its less expensive product line or a regular store brand.

The recipe also contains Thai Kitchen’s Sweet Red Chili Sauce, which is sure to kick the dish up a notch or two. I’m familiar with this sauce and highly recommend it.

As for the tilapia, it’s a mild, white fish that’s available year-round and is very affordable. Your best choice is tilapia grown in the U.S. in environmentally friendly systems. I like to avoid farmed tilapia from China and Taiwan, where pollution and weak management can be a problem.

Tilapia is a very good source of protein and potassium, as well as an excellent source of phosphorus, niacin, selenium and vitamin B12. It also won’t add many calories to your diet and contains no carbohydrates.

Hot and Sour Tilapia with Gingered Rhubarb Sauce
GINGERED RHUBARB:
1 cup frozen sliced rhubarb
1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, drained
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Sweet Red Chili Sauce
½ teaspoon McCormick cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Collection roasted ground ginger
1 tablespoon McCormick Gourmet Collection toasted sesame seed
1 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Collection Sicilian sea salt
¼ teaspoon McCormick coarse ground black pepper
1½ pounds tilapia
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Rhubarb Sauce, microwave rhubarb in medium microwavable bowl on high 1 to 2 minutes or just until thawed. Add pineapple, lime juice, chili sauce, cilantro and ginger; toss to mix well. Set aside.
Mix sesame seed, sea salt and pepper. Brush fish with oil. Sprinkle with seasoning mixture.
Grill over medium-low heat 4 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with Gingered Rhubarb Sauce.
Yield: Servees 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 204 calories, 8 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 52 milligrams cholesterol, 460 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber, 24 grams protein.
 

Christmasy Fish

I know some people might think it’s a little early to start pondering New Year’s resolutions, but not me. My goal is to have hearty-healthy fish at least once and possibly twice a week.

And with the good selection at my neighborhood supermarket, it won’t be that hard.

Just the other day, I picked up a couple of wild Canadian salmon fillets. I baked them in my Dutch oven with a little white wine (about ½ cup), some extra virgin olive oil (3 tablespoons), lemon juice (3 tablespoons), a diced onion, two cloves of minced garlic, some dill and salt and pepper to taste. I then topped the fillets with a tablespoon or 2 of brown sugar and baked it for about 1½ hours at 350 degrees. 

I served the salmon with a baked potato and some steamed carrots. Not only was this a tasty meal, it also was very nutritious.

I came across the following recipe, which has a Christmas touch, the other day and hope to add it to my baked fish repertoire. It’s from the National Institute for Cancer Research (www.aicr.org), which has a wonderful selection of recipes at its Web site. Not only does it look delicious, its nutritional analysis fits right in with my way of thinking.

Roasted Fish with Christmas Salsa
3 vine-type tomatoes, halved and seeded
½ cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup chopped scallions, green part only
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 tablespoons very finely chopped shallot
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 Valencia orange
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt and ground black pepper
4 6-ounce pieces tilapia, halibut or cod filet
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In mixing bowl, combine tomato, red onion, scallions, sweet onion, shallot and jalapeno. Add the orange and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside for 20 minutes for flavors to develop. This makes 3 cups salsa.
Season fish lightly with salt and pepper. Set medium skillet that can go into oven over medium-high heat on top of stove. When hot, add oil and immediately place filets into hot pan. Cook until fish is lightly browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Using wide spatula, turn fish. Slide pan into oven.
Cook until filet flakes easily and is white in the center at widest point, about 2 minutes for tilapia, 3 to 4 for halibut and cod, depending on the thickness of the filets. Place a piece of fish on each of 4 dinner plates. Spoon one-fourth of salsa alongside fish and serve.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 230 calories, 8 grams fat (1 grams saturated), 11 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 2 grams dietary fiber, 85 milligrams sodium.

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Mangoes

My hands are a little beat up today. And Therese’s might be, too.

That’s because last night, we put together about 8 gallons of homemade mango salsa that the Herald crew will be serving tonight at our Relay for Life site in University Park. We cut up mangoes, avocados, roma tomatoes, red onions and cilantro for the better part of four hours, and the result was some of the tastiest salsa I’ve ever eaten.

We’ll be selling samples of the salsa, and I’ll be giving a demo on how to make it at 7:30 p.m., right after the Relay’s opening ceremonies.  Everyone who buys a sample will be given a recipe card so they can make their own later if they so choose.

Last year’s Grand Forks event raised nearly $70,000! Hope to see you there tonight.

And for all of you fish fans out there, here’s a recipe that features tilapia topped with a mango salsa.

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Mango Salsa
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 Roma tomatoes, washed, diced
1 ripe medium mango, seed removed, peeled and diced
½ cup diced red onion
1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, diced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup canola oil, divided
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder or favorite chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
Sea salt to taste
4 skinless tilapia fillets (about 4 ounces each)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a heat-proof platter on the middle rack of the oven.
In a medium bowl, combine the beans, tomatoes, mango, red onion, avocado, lime juice, 2 tablespoons canola oil, cilantro and black pepper; toss gently. Let the salsa sit at room temperature while you cook the fish.
In a small bowl, mix ¼ teaspoon black pepper with the chili powder, cumin, oregano and about ½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste. Rub both sides of the tilapia fillets with the mixture.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat until hot. Working in batches, cook two of the tilapia fillets until lightly browned and the flesh is opaque and cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the fish to the platter in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining two fillets. Transfer the fillets to the platter, and spoon half of the salsa on top. Serve with the remaining salsa on the side.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate  nutritional analysis per serving: 402 calories (39 percent from fat ), 18 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 33 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 278 milligrams sodium, 57 milligrams cholesterol, 82 milligrams calcium, 12 grams fiber.

Fish Tacos

I know it’s still a couple of days before Cinco de Mayo, but it’s not too early to plan a Mexican meal.

We’re having a little potluck at work with a Cinco de Mayo theme. I’m not sure what everyone else is bringing, but our office food parties never have let me down. (I’m planning on bringing some homemade salsa.)

Since I’m working on the actual date of the holiday (May 5), any celebration at home will have to be later rather than sooner, since we have a couple of salmon filets in the refrigerator that need to be cooked tonight.

So, I have a plan for a tasty meal Wednesday night. It’s fish tacos, and I’m looking forward to trying the recipe. It’s from Taste of Home magazine. Some of my favorite recipes have come from the magazine. One, for Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup (with a couple of modifications), I absolutely love.

The fish for the taco recipe is tilapia, which is relatively inexpensive and very versatile.

Here’s how one student described the dish: “A cool sauce with just a bit of zing tops these crispy, spicy fish tacos. “I love this recipe. It’s great, guilt-free and doesn’t break the bank — always a good thing when you’re a college kid!”

And speaking of tilipia, Regal Springs Tilapia, the world’s largest producer of the mild-tasting, popular fish, is searching for the best family-friendly tilapia meal for no more than $15. Six finalists will receive cash prizes. The grand prize winner receives $5,000 and may appear on the company’s Web site and promotional materials. The contest ends Aug. 1.

Anyone in the 50 contiguous states and District of Columbia who is older than 18 and enjoys cooking fish can enter the contest. Recipes must be original and meals must include a tilapia entree, salad and vegetable or fruit to feed a family of four for no more than $15. Winners will be notified by e-mail and announced on the the company’s Web site by Sept. 1. Judges will base their decisions on the following criteria: creativity, ingredients, thoroughness of instructions and other such criteria as may be determined by Regal Springs Tilapia.

For complete contest requirements, officialrules and to enter the contest, log on to www.regalsprings.com.

Here’s the fish taco recipe. Maybe it will inspire you.

Fish Tacos
¾ cup fat-free sour cream
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 tilapia fillets (4 ounces each)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 egg white, beaten
½ cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon each white pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika
8 corn tortillas (6 inches), warmed
1 large tomato, finely chopped
Place the sour cream, chilies, cilantro and lime juice in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.
Cut each tilapia fillet lengthwise into two portions. Place the flour, egg white and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip tilapia in flour, then egg white, then crumbs.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook tilapia in oil in batches for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Combine the seasonings; sprinkle over fish.
Place a portion of fish on each tortilla; top with about 2 tablespoons of sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with tomato.
Yield: 8 servings.

Tilapia — A Tasty Catch

There are only two more Fridays left in Lent — today and next week. Being a Catholic, that means a couple of more days that I have to abstain from eating meat.

That’s usually not much of a problem, since we only eat meat once or twice at the most each week, and I have quite a few recipes that rely solely on vegetables.

But since we eat out most Friday nights, every year at this time, I’m looking for places to go to try new things order to observe this ritual.

I have an idea where we might go tonight — Red Lobster, where Lobsterfest is going on. The restaurant chain bills it as a one-time-a year event at which they "turn lobster into a celebration everyone can enjoy," and at a reasonable price.

Co-worker Dale Stensgaard raved about a dish he and a friend had there just the other night — Rock Island Stuffed Tilapia. According to the company’s Web site, the fish is roasted with crab-and-seafood stuffing and topped with langostino lobster meat in a creamy lobster butter sauce. The cost is $15.99. That’s not bad considering the entree comes with choice of salad and unlimited Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

I’m no stranger to tilapia. It’s been on my radar for several years. It’s a tasty fish that’s very economical and goes with a lot of different ingredients.

One tilapia dish I’ve tried at home and liked is a healthy one-pot meal that can be prepared in 15 minutes. It calls for the fish to be marinated for a few minutes in lemon juice and cracked black pepper before placing it atop a bed of onion, garlic, tomato paste, capers, olives and couscous that have been sauteeing in a skillet.

You don’t even have to be a Catholic to enjoy this recipe.

Lemon Pepper Tilapia and Couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
¾ pound tilapia fillet
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen onion
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup couscous
2 tablespoons tomato paste or puree
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons capers
6 pitted black olives, cut in half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix olive oil, lemon juice and cracked pepper in a bowl or self-sealing plastic bag. Add fish fillet and marinate for 5 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Remove fish from marinade and set aside. Reserve marinade. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and add marinade. Add onion, garlic and couscous. Saute 1 minute. Mix the tomato paste and broth. Add to the skillet with the capers and olives. Place the tilapia on top. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and gently simmer 8 minutes.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 459 calories (21 percent from fat), 10.8 grams fat (2.4 grams saturated, 6.5 grams monounsaturated), 84 milligrams cholesterol, 41 grams protein, 48.8 grams carbohydrates, 5.3 grams fiber, 965 milligrams sodium.