Thad’s back again, with a note for all of you guys out there who don’t cook for the women in your lives: It’s simple, especially when you have an easy tilapia recipe! Below, he presents a healthy dinner that you can have done in about 45 minutes, though the amount of work it requires is only about 15 minutes. He made me this one night when I thought we just didn’t have time to cook, so wanted to go out for tacos. I guess I was wrong! Thad’s dinner was much healthier, and a lot tastier than the tacqueria down the street.
Sunday! The seventh day, and by it’s very nature, a day of rest. Perhaps a day of light errands at most. For Steph and I, our number one priority is waking up in time to hit the local farmers market, because I can’t live without pluots. Or nectaplums. As Steph would say, I really love those hybrid fruits. Probably a bit too much.
Last Sunday, though, we had the farmers market to visit, a barbecue party with old friends, and Steph had planned a surprise later in the evening that she refused to talk about. So as Sundays go, this one was non-stop busy; before we knew it, the sun was getting low. The time was near 6pm and that meant we needed to figure out a super quick dinner that would be fresh and healthy, with everything said and done by 8 so that we could be on the road by 9 for her surprise. I suggested we have fresh tilapia, brown rice, and some salad greens we bought at the market earlier that day. Being the gentleman and the scholar I am — *ahem* — I said I would cook the dinner while she tended to her never ending email problem.
This is such an easy dinner to make. The entire time takes about 45 minutes to cook, with about 15 minutes of actual work. The main trick is to get the rice going before anything else. Rinse 1 cup of brown rice under cold water for a minute so you remove all the excess starch — this keeps the rice from getting too sticky. While it’s rinsing, add about 2 cups of water to a medium sized pot and heat to boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, a 1/4 teaspoon cardamon, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the water. Once it reaches a boil, add the rice, turn the heat down to low, and cover. Start a timer for 40 minutes. That’s all you have to do with the rice. Don’t mess with it, don’t stir it, don’t call it names; the rice will do just fine on its own.
After you start the rice, put together some salad greens. Any kind of greens go well fish and rice — we just happened to buy an organic spring mix at the farmers market that morning, which had all sorts of good stuff in it.
Now it’s time to start the easy tilapia recipe. It’s such a great tasting white fish. Every time I make it I can’t believe there isn’t any butter involved, because it has such a nice taste to it. Lay both pieces of the Tilapia down and season completely with sea salt — now is not the time to be liberal. After that, go for the pepper grinder and lay it on just like the salt. Last step is adding thyme either dried or fresh. Once the first side is done, flip them over and repeat.
When the rice is nearing 15 minutes to done, heat up a non stick frying pan over medium-high heat. You want to heat it for a few minutes first, making sure the pan is completely hot, so that you get a nice sear on the fish. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, and let it heat up. Drop a small bit of water in the pan to see if it’s hot — if it starts bursting and dancing around, the oil it hot enough to cook the Tilapia.
Only cook one piece at a time. Using a fork, lay the fish in the middle and set your timer for 2 1/2 minutes. Don’t fuss or move the fish at all. Word of warning, never walk away when cooking fish. It burns easily when you only are searing it for a few minutes, so your undivided attention is fully needed. When the 2 1/2 minutes is up, it’s time to flip. I use a long fish spatula, and with a quick motion, slide it completely under the fish so you can flip it in one fluid motion.
Start your timer for another 2 1/2 minutes. Take the time to look at the top of the fish that was just cooked. Is there a nice browning on the top? If so, fine! If not, adjust your timing to cook a little longer, but no longer than 3 minutes. When the fish is done it’s very important to take a knife and poke along the ‘grain’ of the fish, in the thickest part, to see if it’s cooked through. If not, let it go a minute longer, but keep checking every 20 seconds or so. Once the tilapia is done, remove it from the pan and set it on a plate. A neat trick is to turn on your oven to its lowest setting, about 150 degrees, and set a plate inside. When the first fish is done, put it on the plate in the oven to keep it warm.
Before starting fillet number two, let the pan sit for a minute to get back up to temperature. Cook this one just the same, only adjusting for any time differences that you may have made to cook the first piece of fish all the way through.
If your timing is good, your rice should be finished at the same time as the fish. Fluff the rice with a fork to loosen it up, and add a little to the plate with some butter, next to each tilapia fillet. With the green salads, you have a quick, healthy, and amazingly tasty meal.
When all was said and done, I had cooked dinner, eaten, and washed the dishes with enough time to take a short walk to help digest our meal before we headed out. Not often do you get to go to a night spa and relax for an hour in the most impressive of settings. Thanks, Steph
- Ingredients for spiced brown rice:
- 1 cup long-grain brown rice
- 2 cups water, minus 2 tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Ingredients for easy tilapia:
- 2 large tilapia fillets
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Juice of one lemon
- To make spiced brown rice: Rinse brown rice under cold water for 1 minute to remove all the excess starch.
- Add water to a medium sized pot, and bring to a boil. Add salt and spices, then rinsed rice, and cover. Lower heat to medium-low and let rice cook for 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it the last 5 minutes to make sure it’s not burning.
- Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Serve with butter.
- To make tilapia:
- Lay both pieces of the Tilapia down on a plate and sprinkle with sea salt — now is not the time to be liberal, so be gentle. Repeat with the pepper and thyme. Flip them over and season the other side.
- Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, giving it a few minutes to heat up completely. Add olive oil cook until it shimmers. Add 1 tilapia fillet to the pan and set a timer for 3 minutes, making sure you have a good sear on the fillet before you flip it over.
- When the timer goes off, flip the fish over and set the timer for another 2½ minutes. When the timer goes off, check the thickest part of the fish for doneness by poking it with the corner of your spatula – you should see no translucent pink flesh. If the fish is not cooked through, check every 30 seconds for doneness.
- Remove fish from pan and repeat with second fillet. Fish can be kept on a plate in a warm oven to prevent it getting cold.
- Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice and serve with brown rice and a nice green salad.