a home cook with notions & an appetite
The Wayward Seed basket included Orion fennel the other week. It’s flatter than a traditional fennel bulb, but it still smells and tastes the same. I love fennel in just about any preparation, so I was just looking for a light dish that could also take care of a farmer’s market tomato that was days away from no longer being usable. After searching around, I found Peggy Lampman’s Friday Dinner Feed and a recipe for Tilapia with Tomato-Fennel Sauce. Here’s her original ingredient list:
1 1/2-2 pounds tilapia fillets
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced, optional
3 tablespoons dry white wine or lemon juice
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped basil plus extra sprig for garnish, optional
Seasoned Italian bread crumbs or panko (Japanese bread flakes), optional
Orange zest, optional
I found it kind of funny that half most of the recipe is optional, but joke’s on me. I ended up making a stripped down version in the end. Here was my vegetable prep:
There’s my fennel bulb…and there it is chopped. Instead of canned tomatoes, I used my large fresh tomato, cored it and chopped it. Next step was to pre-cooked the vegetables:
I cooked the fennel in a small amount of olive oil and kosher salt. Since I wasn’t using canned tomatoes, I threw in the fresh tomatoes for about two minutes just to soften them and bring out some of the juices.
The rest of the dish is devoted to baking. This means some minor prep to the tilapia:
I patted the fish dry before putting it in my lightly oiled baking dish (okay, it’s Pam). It’s now time for the real oil – extra virgin olive oil – and lemon juice followed by a nice salt and pepper seasoning. On top, it’s my fennel and tomato mixture. I figured with the fresh fennel and tomato, I had no need for other seasoning and decided Panko and orange zest weren’t needed either.
At this point, 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. What did I get? Perfectly done fish with a nice light topping that is entirely local. On top of a sustainable fish…yeah, if I actually drove a Prius, this would be some sort of extremely smug bingo, wouldn’t it? All of that aside, I actually do like tilapia for quick weeknight fish dinners. Fennel and tomato is just bonus.