The final scorching days of summer are settling in. With them, don’t you crave light dinners? Fish is a protein that I’ve never been fond of both as a kid and an adult. I’d much rather have a big juicy steak. Something fish has going for it that I can’t even deny is its light and delicate quality. Take sea bass for example. This is a fish that I actually enjoy. A nice 4-6 ounce filet is light but full of great flavor yet it doesn’t make you feel like you need to unbutton your pants. That’s something red meat will never have on its side.
As I’ve moved through my twenties, I’ve learned in stages why different foods should be in your diet. It started with vegetables - experimenting with different green leaves, squash and root veggies. I wish someone would have introduced me to roasted beets a long time ago and I’m still not a fan of kale unless it’s cooked in things. With heart disease prevalent in my family, fish is something I’ve recently tried to incorporate into my diet. Let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy.
I started with tilapia, the most unassuming fish there is. Light, flaky and easy to cook. Thanks to its very mild flavor (pretty much bland), I’ve found a friend in this popular filet. Next was sea bass, something I don’t get to cook myself but love to order at restaurants. Salmon was never going to be a friend and tuna steaks have to be cooked in a particular way. What really bummed out my fish adventure was the surprise allergy to shellfish. Everything I actually enjoyed, you know...the expensive stuff like lobster and crab, suddenly was a suicide mission if I wanted to push those boundaries.
The result: white-fleshed fish are your friends. Buy wild caught, not farmed...fresh, never frozen. Most importantly, ask when the fish came in. I live in the Midwest. If it’s not from Lake Michigan or somewhere you can take a quick flight to Canada, you have to be really careful. Like the halibut I recently bought for a whopping $17 and had to toss because the smell was awful. As much as I am trying to incorporate more fish into my diet, the occasional filet and canned tuna will have to do.
But enough about my fish troubles, let’s talk about the recipe! This tilapia dish is the perfect summer dinner. The fish only seasoned with salt and pepper before it's baked - which normally would be a turnoff for me - but the garlic butter you slather it in immediately out of the oven and the gremolata make it a winner. It’s very simple, very quick and you feel good after eating it. I served this with green beans and a store-bought pasta salad. Delish!
Garlic Butter Tilapia with Lemon Panko Gremolata
4 - 6oz. Tilapia Filets
4 tbsp. Butter + 1 tbsp.
½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
Zest of one Lemon
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. Chives, chopped
1 Garlic Clove, minced
Salt & Pepper
1 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked (the fish will easily flake).
2 - While the tilapia bakes, prep your garlic butter and gremolata. For the gremolata, melt one tablespoon of the butter in a small saute pan. Add panko breadcrumbs to toast, about 2-3 minutes until golden and fragrant. Keep them moving so the breadcrumbs don’t burn. Mix together with half of the lemon zest and all of the herbs. Set aside.
3 - To make the garlic butter, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons in a small saucepan. Add garlic and the remaining lemon zest. Whisk a minute until fragrant.
4 - Remove the fish from the oven. Pour the garlic butter over each filet and top with gremolata. Serve.