This is also a good time to learn how to cook fish if you don’t already know how. Though seafood can be daunting – whether it’s because you are afraid it’s too difficult, too expensive, or too “fishy” – there IS a solution. Tilapia is soft, white, flavorful, and doesn’t have an overpoweringly “fishy” flavor, making it perfect for both beginners at preparing seafood and experts alike. Because tilapia is a flaky whitefish, it’s often used as a stand-in for walleye, cod, and other cold water whitefish that is typically more expensive or more difficult to cook.
Imagine sitting around the dinner table on a Lenten Friday evening, and you serve your family a healthy, flavorful dish and everyone raves at how incredible it tastes. You might think that’s a fantasy, but consider spring and how Lent leads into Easter. It’s a time of renewal, of growth, and if that means a foray into cooking tilapia for the first time, then why not? Your family will thank you!
I’d always personally been somewhat frightened of cooking seafood – it can be expensive and to burn it or overcook it, ending up with a hard plank seemed disgusting and just a shame. Because tilapia is often farmed and it grows so quickly, it’s often much cheaper than similar seafood and it tastes just amazing, responding well to multiple different cooking applications from frying to broiling. Seasoned well with citrus and thyme, cooking in an oven where it sizzles and pops while your family gathers around to talk is honestly a heavenly atmosphere. It’s also a very forgiving food to cook, so it’s a great time to teach your kids (or your husband!) how to cook something they’ve never cooked before.
Seafood in general is quite healthy – full of good fats and nutritious protein – and so it’s something you can definitely feel good about serving this season. As a child my grandmother would shallow fry tilapia but of course she called it walleye as apparently various types of fish are subject to rebranding depending on where you buy them. They were always crispy, with delicious, sweet white flesh that melts in your mouth. Sometimes she’d cook fillets on the stove in a simple concoction of slightly toasted garlic, olive oil, and capers, all of the salt and flavor infusing the tilapia. It was always a Lenten favorite of mine, and it’s my immediate go-to for Fridays during this time.
I am thankful that I discovered (or rather, re-discovered) tilapia and how simple it is to prepare in a variety of ways. Showcasing your talents in the kitchen is a lot easier when the protein with which you’re working is so simple to use and delicious, and right now, it’s incredibly plentiful. I almost feel bad, like I’m taking advantage of the grocer when I go and pick tilapia up for a fraction of what it normally goes for, but I know that’s silly. Still, if they could taste this dish, they might think that you should pay them a bit more!
Truthfully, the days leading up to Easter really are a good time to consider what all we have, to be thankful for being able to provide for our families. Seafood in all its myriad forms plays into that because of the Biblical connection it has, allowing you to not only give up meat but also to stay true to the people of that time. Considerable amounts of money is spent on fancy seafood – lobster, I’m looking at you – but something delicious and simple like tilapia is wonderful because of its simplicity. I’m not discussing a 16 part meal with exotic ingredients and impossible to pronounce herbs; no, this tilapia dish reflects simple, handmade dinners, served to a group of people you love at a special time of year. It reflects the love of friends and family being able to elevate any situation, including a particularly cheap type of seafood, and truthfully that’s wonderful.
It’s become a regular meal for us before Easter but with as versatile as tilapia is and how you can get it pretty much anywhere, there’s no reason you couldn’t use this recipe or other tilapia-centric recipes all year round. A great crunchy tilapia sandwich with some tangy pickles and crisp onion is a treat no matter who you are or what time of year it is, and broiled tilapia is absolutely stunning on a date night and your husband won’t even be able to tell you didn’t spend all day toiling over the oven. It’s THAT easy to cook!
So don’t give up on cooking fish, especially if you’ve never done it before. It doesn’t need to be scary; on the contrary it can be delicious and fun, and something that brings your family together in a shared act of foregoing meat but not nutrition or flavor. Hopefully if you make this recipe and share in the joy it brings to me and my family, it will help you branch out to learning to cook other types of seafood and other foods that scare you in general. When we cook, especially outside of our comfort zone, we learn to communicate in a different way. Food is a universal language, and everyone needs to eat, so why not do something healthy, delicious, and accessible? Go out on a limb (or I suppose a better analogy would be a plank) and learn how to cook this amazing tilapia recipe for you and yours. I promise you won’t regret it!
- Tilapia (6 Pieces)
- Onion (1)
- Garlic (2 Cloves)
- Vegetable Stock (1 Cup)
- Zip Sauce (1/4 Cup)
- Fresh Spinach (One Bunch)
- Fresh Tomatoes (One Medium)
- Vegetable Oil (1/4 Cup)
- Salt and Pepper (Sprinkle on both sides of fish)
- Fresh Lemon (1)
- Take 6 pieces of tilapia and sprinkle with lemon, salt and pepper on each side.
- In a large non stick frying pan, add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Set heat on high. Add the 6 pieces of fish. Fry for about 2 minutes each or until golden brown. Flipping once.
- Remove the fish from the pan and set aside.
- Chop onions and garlic very small.
- In the same oil/pan, add the onions and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Add Vegetable stock to the onions and garlic.
- Add the zip sauce to the same pan.
- Add spinach to the same pan.
- Cut up one medium tomato and add to the same pan.
- Assemble the fish with the sauce mix.