Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Blackened Tilapia with Roasted Pepper and Corn Salsa

Tilapia seems almost ubiquitous.  After shrimp, canned tuna and salmon, tilapia is the most consumed fish in the United States.  It is also, as I have previously blogged, almost entirely farm raised.  Those tilapia farms are spread out across the world, with the largest concentrations in China, Indonesia, Egypt, the Phillippines and Brazil.  It is hard for a consumer to keep track of how fish are raised when the raising is being done thousands of miles away from one's home.  

However, it is possible to raise tilapia in your backyard.  There is a rather small industry out there that is willing to help you start your own tilapia farm.  There are a host of businesses with websites, such as www.tilapia-farming.com and www.worldwideaquaculture, which provide the starting point.  After having read through a couple of the websites, it is clear that tilapia farming involves more than filling your kids' plastic pool with water and dropping a few fish in it so they can swim around.  It is also involves a lot more than dumping a bunch of fish in your neighbor's in-ground pool.  

Indeed, at tilapia-farming.com, there are a series of seven steps to be taken by anyone who is considering the conversion of their backyard into a tilapia farm.  The first step -- take a quick inventory of your motives and readiness.  That seems like a very good start.  Why do you want a tilapia farm in your backyard?  The website tries to help you by asking, "if you grow enough fish, will you barter them with your neighbors for other goods or services?"  How many fish will it take for my neighbor to cut my lawn?  How many fish can I give to a neighbor's teenage kids as compensation for babysitting my children for an evening?  How many fish does it take before all my neighbors refer to me as "that fishy guy?" 

Moving a step or two forward, as it turns out, you can use your kid's pool to start your tilapia farm.  Who knew?  But, one must first check with the local regulations to see if you can have such a farm in your backyard.  My local jurisdiction has none, so there is nothing in my way starting my own gangbusters tilapia farm (except, perhaps, my beautiful Angel who may want to keep the backyard for other purposes).  

Of course, I would need a budget, and, equipment. The folks at tilapia-farming.com note that "tilapia can be grown successfully in a variety of environments, including ponds, cages, raceways and tanks."  Those same folks add, "[u]rban farmers have even reported growing them in trash cans."  (I think if I used garbage cans, I'd get an "AVOID" rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch.)  But still, a working water spigot, a garden hose, and my kid's pool are all components of a starter tilapia farm.  All I need is the fry and some time and then I will be on my way.

Well, not really.  All of this is in jest.  To be sure, one could start a tilapia farm if he or she had the resources, the time, and the know-how.  The websites can certainly provide the know-how, but I think I am lacking in the rest of what is needed.  But, it is fun to dream about it.

Turning to the recipe, I decided to make a blackened tilapia with a roasted pepper and corn salsa.  This is a pretty straightforward and simple recipe to make.  I started with a traditional blackening spice - cayenne, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano.  But, I added a few other spices, like cumin, celery seeds and ancho chile powder (for a little smokiness).  The salsa is also fairly simple and it adds some color as a garnish to the fish.  The ease in terms of making this dish is why a blackened fish with some sort of salsa is a go-to recipe for me.  

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the tilapia):
2 tilapia fillets
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil

Ingredients (for the salsa):
1 green bell pepper, roasted, diced 
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced finely
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1.  Prepare the tilapia.  Mix the paprika, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, celery sides, cumin, cayenne pepper, ancho chile pepper and salt together.  Apply the mix to the tilapia, making sure that the entire fillet is covered.

2.  Prepare the salsa.  Heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onions, jalapeno peppers and garlic, along with the dried oregano and thyme, and saute until the onions are translucent, about five minutes.   Add the roasted bell pepper and continue to saute for a couple minutes more.  

3.  Pan-Fry the Tilapia.  Heat the canola oil over very high heat.  Add the tilapia fillets and pan fry for about four  minutes.  Flip the fillets and continue to fry for about 3 minutes more.  Remove from the heat.

4.  Finish the dish.  Plate the tilapia.  Spoon the salsa over the middle of the fillet.  Serve immediately.  


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