Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Training Meals, part 5: Tilapia and Green Poblano Rice

I love to eat fish. I like that it feels light, even lighter than chicken, so you don't walk away from dinner feeling like you need a nap just to digest your food. I like the taste of it, especially when it's very fresh and has none of that "fishy" flavor (on so many levels) that requires a heavy breading to cover up. I love that it's tender and soft - well, at least most fish is tender, and those are the ones I like. I like that it lends itself to so many different flavors.

I don't like cooking fish inside, then having my house smell like fish for three days. I have a very sensitive nose. In fact, for several years now, we've only made fish at home in the summer (it's usually in season then, anyhow), when we can grill it outside (oh, with one exception: frozen salmon burgers...more on that another day). This avoids all possible fish smell inside, as long as we clean up all the dishes right away.

However, something new has given me freedom I never thought possible with fish: individually vacuum-packed, frozen tilapia fillets. Now, I've had these in the past at Albertsons or Kroger or something, and they weren't very fresh, but the ones that are now available at Costco (Captain's Cut brand) are amazing. They taste so fresh I would not be surprised to learn the tilapia are flash frozen within minutes of leaving the water. In fact, if you don't like fish, this is the fish for you, since it pretty much has no flavor at all, just the tender qualities of a delicate fish. The even crazier thing is they actually recommend microwaving as an option. I was skeptical, I admit, since I don't believe the microwave is for cooking, but I followed the guidelines and was quite impressed. Here is how I made the tilapia:


2 frozen tilapia fillets, 6-8 oz. each (not thawed)
lime zest
olive oil
Kosher salt
1 T. roughly chopped cilantro

Spray a glass dish with nonstick spray. Set the fillets in the dish side-by-side, not touching each other. Zest a little lime over the fish, then drizzle with olive oil (just a couple of teaspoons total), generously sprinkle with salt, and toss on the cilantro. Cover with two layers of plastic wrap, or use a fitted glass lid if available. Microwave on high for 7 1/2 minutes.

Check to make sure the fish is done completely, but the timing should be pretty correct. (The only thing you need to look for is that there is no pink left in the fish.) Serve.

Also great for fish tacos.

If you don't microwave, you can do this in the oven as well, but I can't tell you how long to bake it for. I would just cover your dish with foil, since tilapia dries easily (being low-fat: 2 g. per 4 oz.) and is best prepared steamed.

This is truly a great moment for me. My healthy eating habits improved the moment I discovered these!

Okay, now on to the rest of the meal.

I think you can figure out the corn for yourself. Buy some fresh, local corn, shuck it, set some water boiling, add the corn, remove after about 4 minutes.

The rice is so delicious, and is another recipe from Rick Bayless. It also comes from his book Mexican Kitchen, which I highly recommend if you don't have, as well as any of his other books. It's called Green Poblano Rice, and if you're in a hurry, it only takes about 45 minutes to make (which means the whole meal can really be prepared in about 45 minutes). It actually should take about 1 hour if you're doing everything carefully. I've made it before and strained the poblano-broth mixture as recommended, but this time I was in too big of a hurry, and I found it worked just fine without straining. Still, I'll probably strain it in the future, if for no other reason than I just like the way Rick Bayless does things. But the rice is so good. It's creamy, rich from the chicken broth, bright from the fresh flavors, and slightly spicy. It's also a great accompaniment to the tilapia.

Green Poblano Rice
adapted from Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless

1 2/3 c. chicken broth (preferably homemade, but the carton will do)
2 fresh poblano chiles (sometimes called pasillas), stems and seeds removed, chopped
12 sprigs cilantro
1 T. olive oil
1 c. rice, medium grain (by the way, medium grain is usually the right rice for Mexican cuisine)
1 small white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

In a medium saucepan, combine the broth and chiles. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium for about 8 minutes. Pour into a blender or food processor (if using a blender, just add some of the liquid at first, so the steam doesn't build up, blow the top off, burn you, and cover your counter...yes, it's happened to me), and process to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. Taste for salt. It should be well-salted, but not salty, as it will be providing seasoning for both the stock and the rice.

Rinse out the saucepan, wipe it dry, and add the oil over medium-high. Add the onions and cook, stirring for 5-10 minutes, then the garlic for another minute, then the rice. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the rice has all turned chalky-white. Add the chile liquid to the pan, stir, scrape down and rice kernels, and cover. Bring to a boil (this should be nearly instant, since the liquid was warm), then cook over medium-low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let set 5 minutes before lifting the lid. Fluff with a fork, or turn out into a bowl, and serve.

I really want you to try this one, by the way, and let me know what you think. I just love it, and I think everyone should have a bite of it. Let me know if you do, and how it goes!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

not to be a nit picky boob, but poblanos are sometime called anchos (incorrectly), an ancho is a dried poblano.

I like rick bayless also, another afficianado is Diana Kennedy - if you didnt know already. She is more traditional in my opinion.

Love your site - the green rice and tilapia sounds fantastic, the pictures are really good too!