Sunday, July 13, 2014

Culinary Corner: Tilapia with Spinach

I have purchased a few issues of "Food Network Magazine" lately because I wanted to see if I liked it better than "Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine" for which I've had a subscription the past year.

I definitely like Food Network better! Time to subscribe!

My only real complaint about the recipes in magazines is that they will include the ingredients list and instructions for a main item and side dish as part of the same recipe. An example would be something like, say, Teriyaki Flank Steak and Rice Pilaf. I don't always want to make both things so I would prefer separate recipes for each component.

Anyhoo, there was a recipe for Lemon-Garlic Tilapia with Spinach that sounded good and easy. But the spinach part was just baby spinach leaves tossed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper completely separate from the fish. I don't know, the idea of cold spinach leaves tossed with oil didn't sound that tasty. It's basically a very plain side salad. So I changed it up. Here's my version:

Kelly's Lemon-Basil Tilapia with Spinach

6 tilapia fillets
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
Olive oil
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup white wine
3 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped parsley
4 tsp chopped basil
2 tbsp butter
8 cups baby spinach leaves

1) Pat tilapia dry and season with salt and pepper. Coat with flour, shaking off excess. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Cook tilapia until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

2) Wipe out skillet and heat more olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Add chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, parsley and basil. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add butter and cook for 1 minute.

3) Add spinach and stir until the spinach is coated and slightly wilted. Serve over or under the tilapia fillets.

Serves 6


We had it with a side of a "lemondrop" melon. Really good and goes well with the fish, too!

If you don't eat it all the first night you are better off adding the spinach fresh each time you heat up the sauce otherwise the spinach turns dark green and slimy like canned spinach. I actually just cut the recipe in half and cooked it two nights in a row. 

I am famous in my house for substituting things called for in recipes ("Didn't have fusilli pasta so I used rice!" "Didn't have clams so I used shrimp!") but in this case I actually had everything for the original recipe with only couple of changes or additions.

It called for fresh lemon and fresh parsley for which I substituted bottled lemon juice and dried parsley. I have frozen cubes of basil which I buy at Trader Joe's. The basil, because it's fresh (albeit frozen), adds a stronger flavor than the parsley so I think it's better (unless you don't like basil).

I think this would be good with almost any kind of fish fillet, especially salmon. But salmon is so pricey now and tilapia is much less expensive. Like halibut I consider tilapia to be the tofu of fish in that it has no real flavor of its own and depends on the sauce or seasonings to liven it up.

I am also famous in my house for adding onions to EVERYTHING. (Except desserts!) Hence added onion compared to the original Food network version!

I couldn't tell you if my olive oil is virgin or not (kind of a personal question!) but my stance on cooking oil is that you shouldn't taste it at all in a dish like this so you could probably use vegetable oil in its place.

As a kid and young adult I hated spinach. I still think canned spinach or frozen spinach are kind of gross but I really like the taste of the baby spinach leaves. I guess it has a milder taste when it's lightly cooked rather than boiled to death.


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