A view from my side.
So, as promised to friends, a post on food rather than one dedicated to running or soccer. To the running/soccer followers of the blog, I promise you an easy, tasty meal if you read on. The other day, I posted about eating at an Inn in Connecticut. The meal was Oven Baked Panko Encrusted Tilapia. I liked it so much that I decided to make it myself at home. Of course, I cheated…I bought the Panko coating rather than make it from scratch. Just what is Panko, some of you may be asking. The word itself is Japanese for bread crumbs. Normally made without the crust, Panko is a coarsely shredded white bread. One of the main differences between Panko and other bread crumb coatings is that the shredding gives a “flaky” texture as opposed to a “crumb” texture. That results in a coating that absorbs less oil when fried and gives you a lighter, crispier coating. When baking, it you will be greeted with a nice “crunch” as you bite down into meal. A wonderful topping for casseroles, it won’t ever become soggy or compacted like normal bread crumbs can. It also “mixes” well with other flavorings, in this case lemon pepper. It is an excellent alternative for chicken and seafood, whether fried or baked. Once an obscure fish, tilapia has become the dominant farm raised fish for American consumption. Originally an African bred, it has been exported to fish farms around the world. Often referred to as the “aquatic chicken”, it is easy to raise, grows to market weight in about 9 months and will eat food pellets of corn and soy. This is one of the main downsides to farm raised tilapia. The Omega-3 fatty acids that are the main dietary benefit to eating fish, are greatly reduced in tilapia due to its food pellet diet. The Omega-3s come naturally come from the lake plants and algae fish consume in nature. The average portion of tilapia contains 135 mgs of Omega-3. The average portion of salmon…2,000 mg. You can read more about it here. Despite all of that, I still enjoy its tasty, flaky texture and its relatively low cost. At $4.99 a pound in my local fresh fish market I can afford to eat it more frequently that I can the $60.00 a pound I would pay for fresh Halibut. Ok then…to last night’s supper. I bought a 1/3 pound tilapia filet at the store along with a box of Lemon Pepper Panko. For my side dish I picked up one zucchini and one yellow squash to be sautéed. Start by rinsing the filet and patting it dry. Dip the filet into a beaten egg to give it a coating for the Panko to hold on to. Then coat dredge/coat the filet with the Panko. Preheat the oven to 375°F. When baking fish, I always cover my pan with foil, especially if I plan on using it for other things in the future. While tilapia lacks the typical “fishy smell” that other fish has (due in large part to its lower Omega-3 content), it will still leave a baked in smell on your pan that may come back to haunt you later. Spray the foil with a cooking spray, place the filet on the pan and pop it into the oven for about 20 minutes. While that is baking, rinse the zucchini and squash, chop off the ends and slice into disks. The thickness depends on your preference, I like mine relatively thin. Heat up some butter in a skillet and add the zucchini and squash. I toss in some diced onions and flavor with a touch of salt and a bit more pepper. Sautee on medium heat, stirring often until done. If you time it just right, everything will be “done” at about the same time. I did not add another side, but easily could have made some rice or other such dish to go with it. I did add a dinner roll, but then, what is a meal without bread? I poured a simple Pinot Grigio to go with it and sat down to enjoy. The fish was flaky and moist, the Panko crisp and flavorful. I will sometimes turn on the broiler for a minute or two to “crisp up” a fish filet, but that was not necessary with the Panko. The calorie count on this came in around 700 calories, food and drink included. While not as rich in the Omega-3 fatty acids as other fish, tilapia is an inexpensive, tasty, and easy to cook fish. It won’t give your kitchen that “fishy smell” that so many people complain about. This entire meal, from prep to plate, took about 30 minutes. I suggest you give it a try for something a little different. It’s a great meal the night before a long morning run. And who knows, you may just end up putting Oven Baked Lemon Pepper Encrusted Panko Tilapia on your monthly menu.