Recipe from Fish Forever by Paul Johnson
Here’s a recipe from the best resource that I know for preparing seafood that is healthy for your body and the environment: Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious, and Environmentally Sustainable Seafood by Paul Johnson. The title says it all. It's also a great source for unusual recipes such as this one [Read my review on Goodreads].
I used the relish to top the crispy tilapia in the recipe, then later to top veggie burgers. I’m not sure what else it could top, as the taste is very unusual. Because my lemons were medium to small, I used 6 of them. They were Meyer lemons, which I like for their added sweetness. I also added a little honey and reduced the salt. Use a really sharp knife to slice lemons thin--I found this part a bit challenging. Note that the relish must stand for 1 hour after cooking before it’s served, so start by making that first (I’ve reversed the original recipe for that reason.) Note that the author, formerly Chef at the prestigious Chez Panisse, “invented” this recipe by accidentally leaving the fish frying during a phone conversation. Fortunately the burner was on medium, not high. Such is the creative process, and sometimes we get lucky with it.
Crispy Tilapia with Lemon-Onion Relish
1 Tbsp refined peanut or other mild-flavored oil (I used canola)
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced (1 heaping cup)
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp dry white wine
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp light molasses (I used dark, which made the relish darker)
1.5 tsp honey (my addition)
2 large organic lemons (or 4-6 medium to small)
1 tsp kosher salt (I used ¾ tsp)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a heavy, medium sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until well browned and reduced to about ½ cup. Add the water and wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in vinegar and molasses (and honey if using.)
Cut the ends of the lemon, stand it on end, and cut the rind off lengthwise all the way down to the flesh. Lay the skinned lemon on its side and slice it into coins, discarding any seeds as you cut. Add the lemon coins to the pan with the onions, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer 1 minute. Turn the heat off and let mixture stand for 1 hour before serving.
2 T refined peanut or other mild-flavored oil (I used canola)
Four 5-oz. tilapia fillets
Salt to taste (I used very little, but sprinkled on some black pepper)
Minced flat-leaf parsley for garnish (I substituted cilantro because I had it on hand)
Put oil in large nonstick sauté pan or skillet and heat to medium. Season fish with salt (& pepper) and place in pan skin-removed side down. Give the pan a shake to be sure nothing is sticking and let it cook. In 10 minutes it will be sizzling in its own rendered fat. Cook the fish uncovered 20 minutes or more till bottom is crunchy, chewy, and brown, and top is top is beginning to turn white and opaque. Turn the fillets over for 30 seconds to finish cooking. Divide fish among 4 plates, crispy side up, and garnish with parsley. Serve with Lemon-Onion Relish alongside.