When I was little I didn’t like fish. I also didn’t like capers, zucchini, or anything green. My daily dinner consisted of spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese because –surprise surprise – I didn’t like tomato sauce either. An Italian who doesn’t like tomato sauce? Crazy, I know.
I come from a family of amazing Italian cooks: my grandma Mina was an impatient but wonderful gnocchi maker; my dad makes the best risotto you’ll ever eat; my mom can cook anything, from tasty pastas to delicious desserts, and my sister’s tiramisu is so good it will make you melt. All of them were appalled, and also very surprised, by my complete lack of interest in good food. “Who did she get it from?” They would ask each other, as I picked at my plain pasta with butter and cheese.
Since then things have changed. I currently like most foods (except challenging anatomical parts such as brains, tripe and liver), and I’ve grown up to be quite the fish lover – a fact my mother regards as miraculous to this day.
There is one reason that I ended up liking fish: I discovered that there are fish like tilapia, snapper and mahi mahi, that don’t actually taste fishy. They are delicate and flaky, and when you pull them out of the oven they don’t smell like… well, like fish.
The recipe below is one of my favorite ways to cook tilapia. It’s very light and summery, and it reminds me of a recipe they make in most restaurants on the shores of the northern Italian lakes. It’s also fast and easy to make, but it looks so appetizing everyone at the table will think you have slaved in the kitchen for hours.
TILAPIA WITH CAPERS AND CHERRY TOMATOES
INGREDIENTS (for 2)
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons of capers, drained. If using the giant kind, mince them.
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
A few leaves of fresh basil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tilapia fillets
First of all you want to heat up your oven to 420 F.
While the oven is heating up take a pretty big bowl and mix the cherry tomatoes, capers, olive oil, basil, salt to taste and crushed red pepper. If you like spicy food feel free to put in more red pepper. I usually use a couple of tablespoons of red pepper flakes, but be careful – that makes it extremely spicy. Squeeze your lemon over the mixture and stir.
Sprinkle salt, pepper and paprika over the tilapia filets. Place them in a Pyrex pan and bake in the over for about ten minutes. I suggest you set your oven timer so you don’t forget about the fish and burn it to a crisp. Tilapia cooks really fast and turns pretty nasty when overcooked.
Take the fish out of the oven and top with the tomato mixture. Bake for five more minutes, dish out and enjoy!
GOOD WITH: Roasted potatoes, steamed or roasted asparagus, sautéed zucchini
WINE PAIRING: A fresh summery white Merlot or a not-too-sweet Chardonnay