Monday, December 14, 2009

Tilapia with Fennel, Saffron, Orange and Tomatoes


The earth has provided a few foods that are so marvelous, I think of them as "magic ingredients:" they make just about anything you put them in taste heavenly.
One such fabulous food is the spice, saffron.
I have to wonder how this spice was discovered, since it's a tiny part of a tiny flower sometimes called the saffron crocus. In any case, a little pinch of this rare and wondrous, golden orange spice perks up not only savory foods but sweet ones too. (One of our most memorable bites in Italy last summer was saffron gelato at a shop in Siena.)

I usually make the following recipe with halibut, but any mild fish will do as well. I had tilapia in the freezer, plus all the other ingredients. Voila!

Recipe: Tilapia with Fennel, Saffron, Orange and Tomatoes
(Serves 3-4)

2 T canola or olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb (most of one large bulb)
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped onion or leek
1 can diced tomatoes
Zest and juice of 1/2 orange
Pinch of saffron
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water
1 pound tilapia filets

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add fennel, celery and onions or leeks. Saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables start to become tender and brown a bit (about 4 minutes).
Add tomatoes, orange zest and juice, saffron and pepper flakes. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes, until mixture begins to simmer. Add seasonings and water. Cover again and let mixture heat well.
Add fish, re-cover, and cook another 5 minutes. Fish is done when it turns white all over.
Adjust seasonings, adding more salt if you like.
Serve with a green vegetable and crusty bread. A little sauvignon blanc would go great with it, too!

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