I was raised on Mrs. Pauls Fish Sticks, white salted cod, canned tuna, canned salmon (with those nasty little bones), and the occasional bit of fried shrimp. It was meat and potatoes..we had beef, chicken and pork — fish wasn’t really on the menu. So fish, and seafood were more foreign to me than anything when I first started really cooking.
I clearly remember the first time I had “fish” when I moved to New York. It was grilled Mako Shark, with a butter filled with herbs drizzled over it. It was fantastic. I ate every morsel, and, if I had not been in a restaurant, I might have licked the plate ;) At different restaurants, over the years, I tried salmon, haddock, fresh tuna, halibut, fresh shrimp, and on and on.
But I was almost afraid to try and cook fish myself. It was one thing to eat it out at a restaurant, where it was prepared properly, and tasted like it was supposed to, it was another thing to do it myself — I didn’t really know where to start. I first fried it, thinking I couldn’t mess that up too much — and I bought a piece of some fish the fish monger at my local market recommended to me. But this piece of fish was in the class I call “mushy” fish. Mushy fish is fish that is too soft for me — it’s like really wet bread, with a fish flavor to it, and, makes me gag.
I stuck with the basic “meaty” fish for a long time — salmon, shark, tuna, halibut, etc. But I started to experiment with different fish, and different seafood a few years back, and have enjoyed it immensely.
I discovered what kinds of fish I really do like — and they all, for the most part, tend to be “meaty”, as I mentioned above. But some, like the local version of tilapia that I get, is delicately flavored, yet still has a firm texture to it, which I can handle quite well. Once I felt that I could actually cook fish, I started to try different recipes and different types of fish and seafood. It’s been a fun adventure, and one I look forward to learning more about as time goes on.
The following recipe for baked tilapia was given to me by Mark, a friend of mine who thinks fish should be served 5x a week.. minimum. This is one of his favorite ways to eat it. The tilapia can be substituted with your favorite type of fish.
The relish recipe isn’t really a relish, but more like one of my favorite meals ;) It’s really great served on the tilapia, though, and so is included here as well.
6 tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat the oven to 375F.
Rinse and pat dry the tilapia.
Mix the oil with the garlic powder, pepper, basil and salt, and brush both sides of the fish. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet (or use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper).
Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the fish is flaky and done.
Tomato and Avocado Relish
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 avocados, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 1/2 tablespoon oil, preferably olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.
Prep the tomatoes and avocados. Place the tomato and avocado into a medium bowl, adding the oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together well.
Serve the relish over the fish.