Friday 16 May 2014

Pan Fried Tilapia with Orzo Salad

Here's a lil' sum'n sum'n that I threw together for dinner last night There really isn't much to it so I won't bother going through every step in detail. I pan fried a fillet of tilapia in brown butter and then finished with some fresh lemon juice. It works for just about every fillet of fish and it's a technique that I use quite a lot (my apologies if I've already used it on the blog and have forgotten). I'll touch a bit on that. I definitely recommend it because it tastes amazing and works on just about all fish. 

I've never done orzo on the blog before. Orzo is the Italian word for barley and looks an awful lot like grains of rice, but it's actually rice shaped pasta. It cooks like any other kind of dried pasta. It's interesting because it carries the same shape and texture of rice but when you eat it the unmistakable characteristics of pasta come through. It can be prepared and served with a warm sauce, or it can be drained and chilled, tossed with diced vegetables and eaten as a salad. That's exactly what I've done here.

Dried Orzo Pasta

If you get your hands on some orzo pasta, follow the cooking instructions on the package. Otherwise, eight minutes in salty water at a rolling boil while stirring often should give you perfect al dente orzo. Orzo is smaller than pasta you may be used to cooking so depending on your strainer, it could fall through the holes. you want to use a strainer with holes smaller than the thickness of the orzo. Otherwise, you'll want to use a fine mesh sieve. If you're using your orzo to make a cold salad, rinse the strained pasta in cold running water until it is completely chilled and strain thoroughly again. There are very, very few instances where one would rinse cooked pasta, but this is one of them. Usually pasta is cooked to accompany a warm sauce. By rinsing it, the pasta loses a lot of exterior starch which would help to bind the sauce to it. For a salad tossed in a little olive oil and some lemon juice then this is perfect. 

I loaded my orzo salad with heaps of vegetables. Some of them I bought specifically for this dish and others I just had and needed to use up. That's the beauty of home cooking. You can use any vegetables you want but I recommend dicing them into generally even sized pieces not much larger than the orzo themselves. That way the different colours, textures and flavours in the salad will work together rather than compete with one another. I used green bell pepper, red bell pepper, seeded cucumber, grape tomatoes, black beans, shallots, scallions, radishes, chili peppers, capers, fresh parsley, dried oregano and fresh lemon zest. Cheese works tremendously well in orzo salad (particularly crumbled feta or Parmigiano Reggiano) but I knew I was going to be pairing it with fish and I generally don't use cheese and fish together. If that's your thing, go for it. After that, all it needed was a little seasoning, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and about three times as much extra virgin olive oil. It's ridiculously easy but scrumptious!

As for the fish, I seasoned the fillet with salt and pepper on both sides. In a pan over medium-high heat I melted some butter with a little olive oil. Butter can burn easily but cutting it with a bit of olive oil prolongs its resiliency. Before adding the fish, let the butter sizzle away for a minute or two until it produces a nutty aroma and starts to brown. This will dramatically enhance the flavour of the fish. Then carefully add the fillet into the hot butter, lightly dropping it away from you to prevent splashing on yourself. Keep an eye on it, but do not touch it. Not only do you want the fish to cook but you want a nice golden, crispy crust to form. as the fish cooks it will change colour. Keep an eye on the side of the thickest part of the fish. You will see the change of colour steadily rise from the side against the pan. When it reaches about 2/3rds the way up the thickest part, which should only take a few minutes, flip the fillet once and allow it to cook through. It won't take quite as long as the first side. At this stage, use a spoon to collect some of the browned butter and baste the fillet as it cooks to prevent it from drying out.


Afterword, carefully remove the fish from the pan and squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over it. So straight forward, so simple and yet a classic way to prepare a fillet of fish. The flavour is beautiful. Unfortunately for me my tilapia broke as I removed it from the pan, hence why the shape of the fillet differs from the photo above and the first photo at the beginning of this post. Hey, it happens. lol

I encourage you to try making a chilled orzo salad, fillet of fish fried in browned butter and finished with lemon juice or even both together. This was a delicious and balanced meal that was quick and very simple. It proved to be a perfect weeknight supper.

Come back soon because I'm always sharing new recipes and techniques on the blog. Thanks again for visiting!


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