When many Christians observe Lent, fish becomes a menu mainstay.
For an extremely mild-flavored fish, try tilapia – the fifth most-consumed fish in the U.S., according to the National Fisheries Institute.
Tilapia is a forgiving fish. Its firm flesh means it takes well to grilling, broiling, baking and pan sautéing. And generally one tilapia fillet is a decent serving for most appetites.
Tilapia can be bland. So if you’re cooking tilapia, look to other ingredients to flavor the fish.
Today’s recipe pairs tilapia with fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, olives and capers.
Kalamata olives and capers are great pantry staples. Both have great salty-briny flavor and a little of each goes a long way. Because of their saltiness, you can scale back on much of the salt in the recipe.
Kalamata olives are Greek black olives that are about ½ to 1 inch long and almond-shaped. Many are a deep purplish color. Typically, they are packed in a brine and sometimes in olive oil.
Simple uses of kalamata olives include setting them out as an appetizer, processing them into a paste with olive oil and other ingredients to make tapenade, and roasting them with fish, chicken and even lamb. Kalamata olives are common fare at stores that have so-called Mediterranean olive bars. These olive bars typically have several varieties of olives, including green olives, sometimes along with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella. My local Kroger has at least six olive varieties, including pitted and unpitted and a medley of olives with feta cheese.
If you buy kalamatas with pits, it’s easy to remove them: Press a long chef’s knife along the back of the olive and smash it. The olive’s semi-soft flesh will split, revealing the pit.
When you buy olives from an olive bar, choose those that are already pitted — unless you’re going to set them out on an appetizer tray. It will save time and money because most olives bars charge by the pound whether the olives are pitted or not.
Capers are the flower bud of a bush indigenous to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. They are green and smaller than a petite pea.
Along with a salty taste, they have a hint of herbs. You will find them in small jars near the olives at most grocery stores. Capers are packed in salty brine, so they should be drained and rinsed before using to get rid of some of the salt. Be sure to reserve the brine, pouring it back into the jar, to keep any remaining capers submerged. Once opened, capers should be stored in the refrigerator.
ROASTED TILAPIA WITH TOMATOES, OLIVES AND FINGERLING POTATOES
Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ¼ pounds small fingerling potatoes, cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups grape tomatoes
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained
3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
¼ cup white wine vinegar, divided
4 tilapia fillets or other firm fish, about 5-6 ounces each
Sprigs of thyme for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a sided baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. P lace potatoes on the sheet and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, about ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Roast potatoes about 15 to 20 minutes or until browned and crisp, tossing halfway through. Remove from oven; wrap potatoes in foil to keep warm.
Place the tomatoes, olives, capers and garlic on the same baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 teaspoon thyme. Place in oven and roast until just beginning to soften, 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 tablespoons vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; brush on the fish. Place the fish on top of the roasted tomato mixture and return to the oven until fish is just cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Divide among plates and serve with the potatoes. Garnish with sprigs of thyme.
From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
367 calories (27 percent from fat), 11 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 29 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams protein, 535 mg sodium, 85 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.
©2013 Detroit Free Press
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PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): TILAPIA