Friday, January 29, 2010

Simple Suppers: Blackened Tilapia with Soft Polenta

Happy Friday Divas!

Here's the deal.  We should all eat more fish.

Not only more fish, but fish that's sustainable, low in mercury, in this economy, affordable, and oh yeah, tasty, too.


Is anyone else overwhelmed by all the requirements?  Making good dietary choices can be like navigating through a minefield without losing a limb (did you see the ads and read about the new Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet?!). One of the most readily available fish in the supermarket is farm-raised Tilapia.  It's tasty, easy to cook up and inexpensive.  But does it meet the above guidelines?

I've done the research, and while there are some asterisks that I'll discuss, the answer is yesSeafood Watch rates farm-raised tilapia a "best" choice when it's raised in the United States.  It's high in protein and an excellent source of phosphorus, niacin, selenium, vitamin B12, and a good source of potassium.  It's also exceptionally budget-friendly, which is important.

However, unlike the touted salmon, farm-raised tilapia is not a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.  But this isn't the poor little tilapia's fault - rather it's caused by the corn-based food most farm-raised fish are fed (this is the same reason why our meat supply is so unhealthy).  You are what you eat, and this holds true for fish as much as people.  Wild fish eat a diet rich in algae, which is the reason they contain so many omega-3's, which then trickle up the food chain to us (by the way, the same holds true for grass-fed meat).  So this could be corrected by reforming our farming practices to feed the fish a diet rich in omega-3's.  It's that simple. 

But when you consider all the choices out there and shake it out, I believe that tilapia can be part of a healthy, varied diet.  Just make sure you scoop up a handful of walnuts to get your daily dose of omega-3's from another source.

Here's a fast recipe that I whip up from time to time.  While I made it with tilapia, it would be great with catfish or snapper, too.  I serve the blackened fish over a quick soft polenta.  Just pair this meal with a veggie and you're all set (I recommend my Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Parmesan Reggiano).

Also, don't forget to click click click away on my blog Domestic Divas!  In conjunction with Blog Away Hunger, I'm donating 100% of my January ad revenue to the World Food Program's disaster relief efforts in Haiti.  So browse through my archives - the more you view, the more money gets donated.

Blackened Tilapia with Soft Polenta
Serves 2 people
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

2 tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cup polenta (or grits), cooked per package instructions
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
salt and pepper

To make the soft polenta, cook the polenta per package instructions (should cook quickly - about 10-15 minutes).  Stir in the fresh thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the tilapia, thoroughly coat both sides of each fillet with the Cajun seasoning.  Heat the grapeseed oil or canola oil in a saute pan over high heat until almost smoking.  Add the tilapia and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for one to two minutes, and then flip.  Continue cooking until cooked through (only a few minutes depending on thickness).  Remove from heat.

To plate, spoon some soft polenta onto a plate.  Top with a piece of fish and finish with fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
farm-raised tilapia, Cajun seasoning, organic thyme and polenta from Whole Foods

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