21 October 2013

Baked Tilapia with Kale & Mushrooms

Do you ever get fed up with doing the dishes?  What am I saying...of course you do, because dishes are the least fun part of cooking.  I have yet to meet an individual who can't wait to throw on their rubber gloves and bust out the liquid soap after a good meal, particularly if they've been cooking all day (all day = even more dishes = boo).  Perhaps that's why I'm so terribly fond of one-dish meals, the recipes that require a single dish, a cutting board and a knife to prepare.  They're so darn considerate after a day of excessive cookery.  Or on a day when the dishwasher is studying full.  Or a day that you really don't feel like cleaning.  Come to think of it, they're always great.

Sunday was one of those days.  After a breakfast of incredible mexican pancakes, a large batch of my mom's beef stew and more pumpkin snickerdoodles than I care to admit, I was not in the mood for yet another round at the sink.  The hubs is typically a dish-monster, literally washing instruments right out from under me before I've finished using them...but alas, with another shelf exam approaching he was out of commission.  Which makes me foolish for still attempting to cook enough to feed a family of 10 in our 7 1/2 square foot kitchen (and yes, I just measured).  But foolish I am, and cook I did.  And after the cooking comes the dishes.....

Several hours and 10 pruny fingers later, it was time to start dinner.  There was no way I could say no to the hub's special request for homemade cheesy baguette, so it was one-dish dinner time.  Fortunately, I had all the essentials on hand for this delightfully quick and easy meal.

There are lots of recipes out there for baked fish and vegetables which ask you to use two baking sheets or a baking sheet and a casserole dish.  For the life of me, I never understood why they didn't throw them all into one dish and call it good.  I mean, come on people...who wants more to clean up?

I love baking fish over vegetables, and the combination of kale and mushrooms happens to be one of my absolute favorites.  Inspired by an amazing baked mushroom dish, I made up this recipe a while back for those nights when a quick clean-up is desired.  Toss those greens and mushrooms with a little garlic, olive oil and a few capers for wonderful flavor that is both satisfying and light.  The kale under the fish stays moist and tender while the exposed bits around the edges get nicely toasted for a wonderful little crunch.

Light, flakey and quick-cooking tilapia is perfect on top of the vegetables.  Its mild flavor is excellent with the capers and mushrooms.  The sprinkling of bread crumbs and parmesan on top of the fish adds wonderful texture, taking it from drab to fab.  Sometimes we finish this with a nice squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but here we topped it all of with a drizzle of marinara.  It's wonderful to mop up all that extra sauce with a nice side of crusty bread (or cheesy baguette).

Oh, and if you happen to be out of bread crumbs (a-hem), just make your own. Simply toss two heels of bread  into the oven while it pre-heats until they are dried out and brown.  Crunch them up with a mortar and pestle or by hand in a ziplock bag and voila, bread crumbs.  I like to add a little dried oregano and basil to mine.

Baked Tilapia with Kale & Mushroom (serves 2)

  • 2 c kale
  • 5-6 oz mushrooms
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs capers
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 fillets tilapia
  • 2 tbs bread crumbs (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 tbs parmesan, grated
  • lemon wedges or marinara, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees*.  On a cutting board, wipe and stem your mushrooms.  Wash the kale and either roughly chop or tear with your hands.  Transfer the vegetables to a casserole dish.  Drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the garlic and capers.  Season with salt and pepper, then toss together until all the vegetables are evenly coated.  

Pat the tilapia fillets dry with paper towels, then lay across the top of the vegetables.  Season the fish wish salt and pepper.  In a small dish or ramekin, combine the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle over the fish until well coated, the sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs over the kale.  

Place the casserole dish in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the fish flakes with a fork.  Remove the dish from the oven and divide between two plates.  Garnish with the lemon wedges or marinara (actually, any sauce you like would be great).  Serve with crusty bread or crackers.  

* If making homemade bread crumbs, throw the bread into the oven when you turn it on to pre-heat. Once your kitchen starts to smell like toast, start checking the bread to see if it's toasty enough.   

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