Friday, August 10, 2012

Pecan Crusted Tilapia and Spicy Tomato Basil Quinoa (I'm back!)

Spicy Tomato Basil Quinoa with Pecan-Crusted Tilapia

Omigoodness. I am so sorry. I have neglected you for an ENTIRE MONTH. I'm a horrible blogger, but I had some good excuses! I moved! (Did you noticed the header?) The Monkey Scientist persuaded me to move to his hometown of Chicago and so far I am loving every minute of it. However, the move also consisted of 3 weeks without internet, which seriously hindered my ability to blog.  Not to mention the 2 weeks living with the Monkey Scientist's parents, during which I was completely spoiled and only had to cook once or twice. But I'm back now. I'm really going to work on getting back to thrice-a-week blogging, but please bear with me while I get back into the swing of things.

Pecan-crusted tilapia

One of my favorite things about moving to Chicago is that I'm close to my baby brother, who is in school at Northwestern.  We haven't lived in the same city for more than a couple of weeks since the summer after my Freshman year of college, and despite our sibling bickering, I love having him around.  And I'm pretty sure he loves having me here - if only because I am willing cook for him.  I gave him a few options to pick from for dinner this week and he chose this pecan-crusted tilapia (the original recipe was catfish but we New Englanders do not eat catfish) and tomato basil quinoa.  A mighty fine choice if I say so myself.

I wanted to spice up the quinoa but accidentally removed the cap from my spice jar instead of opening the shaker and didn't notice before I literally dumped a handful of red pepper flakes into the rice cooker. Oops. I was able to remove a few of them, but we definitely ate spicy quinoa.  The Monkey Scientist would have loved it, but he was out with his own brother at the Bears game.

Pecan-crusted tilapia with spicy tomato basil quinoa

This dinner was so good, it gave me the kick I needed to get back into blogging. It was super healthy (barely any oil or butter in the whole dish and just a little fat from the nuts) and loaded with flavor.  The quinoa is spicy, nutty, and filled with summery tomato-basil flavor.  I'd love to chop some little balls of mozzarella and spread them throughout next time. The fish was perfectly flaky, nutty, and a little lemon juice complemented it well. I think this meal was a major step up from the frozen pizza baby bro was going to make otherwise.  Plus, it was pretty easy to make. I think baby bro will be coming by more often after this meal!

Spicy Tomato Basil Quinoa

Pecan-Crusted Tilapia
adapted from Eat, Live, Run

6 fillets tilapia (or any flaky, white fish)
1 cup finely ground pecans (I bought them pre-crushed but you could crush them yourself or put them in the food processor)
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2-1 cup buttermilk
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a shallow dish or pie plate, mix together the finely ground pecans, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, dry mustard, pepper, cayenne and salt.
3. Place the tilapia fillets in another shallow dish. Pour buttermilk over the fish fillets. Dip each buttermilk-soaked piece of fish into the nut mixture, dredging completely. Place crusted fish on a parchment paper or silpat-lined sheet tray.
4. Bake fish for 20 minutes. When done, fish should be white and flake easily. Crust should be golden. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Spicy Tomato Basil Quinoa
adapted from Pink Parsley

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (I used white)
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1-2 tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
2 Tbs chopped fresh basil

1. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the onion/garlic mixture, tomato sauce, water, quinoa, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cayenne to a rice cooker and cook completely. The quinoa will be tender, chewy, and there will be white, spiral-like threads around each grain. (If you don't have a rice cooker, head back to Pink Parsley for instructions on how to do this on the stove or follow your package instructions.)
3. Move from the rice cooker to a serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, and basil, and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

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