Learning to love fish!

Spice rub at the ready for the blackened tilapia. Oregano and lemon thyme from my garden! Substituted chili powder for cayenne.

Spice rub at the ready for the blackened tilapia. Oregano and lemon thyme from my garden! Substituted chili powder for cayenne.

Growing up, my entire family loved fish…except for me. I don’t exactly remember giving it a fair shake either but do remember a couple of typical movie-style incidents where I was forced to sit at the dinner table until I finished whatever it was…waited until it got cold…scarred me against salmon patties for life type of thing. My Dad really enjoyed fishing and for awhile we lived next to a stocked pond that had all sorts of fun swimmy things. I always wanted to join in with everybody when they were downing that fish and loving it…

As an adult, I’ve tried several times to give fish a go again with not much luck. I tried other kinds of seafood and found with the exception of lobster one time at a super fancy NYC restaurant, I disliked other sea critters even more than just plain ol’ fish. I even tried jellyfish at a super fancy Chinese restaurant in San Francisco! The point I’m trying to make is that I have tried…really tried.

I’ve been working to up my protein sources beyond just chicken (and the occasional lean red meat) but am not a fan of soy and you can only do so much with nuts and higher protein grains (like quinoa). I was leaving out an entire ocean of possibilities. I know there are great fish oil supplements (and have taken them before) but I would prefer to enjoy learning something new rather than forcing down another big pill.

Raw tilapia prepared with spice mix on an oven sheet.

Tilapia rubbed with the blackened spice mix, prepped on baking sheet, 450 conventional oven for 11 minutes.

So in the last few years my taste preferences have radically changed. I like many vegetables that I either didn’t like before or had never tried before. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what is it that I don’t like about fish…and the times I could count on one hand the good seafood experiences I have had. In no particular order (except maybe the first one was the most awesome):

1) wild caught salmon from the ocean off NW peninsula in Washington State cooked over a roaring fire while staying in a lil’ cabin in Forks. (No, didn’t go there for the Twilight stuff…and yes, also tried elk heart in the same meal…)

2) cashew encrusted butter sauteed tilapia at a McCormick & Schmick’s in Kansas City, MO many years ago.

3) aforementioned lobster at a restaurant in NYC I can’t remember but it was on a business trip and I worked at an interactive agency in late 1990s so ya know, before the dotcom bust.

Honestly, that’s it. UNTIL TONIGHT!

Trying to examine why I don’t enjoy fish I came up with a couple things, namely that “fishy” taste and sometimes there are texture issues (like shrimp). Don’t ask me why, but shrimp most of the time tastes like how pantyhose feet smell after they’ve been crammed in an old shoe after a full day of church. (Ah, childhood memories…)

Success could possibly mean finding a fish that wasn’t very fish and that my friends, is tilapia. Continued success could also mean making it SPICY!

Spicy is another thing I didn’t really experience much growing up. My Mom had an aversion and sometimes allergy to most peppers and my Dad had a sensitive stomach. Up until a couple years ago, I gravitated towards buttery + sweet but since discovering spicy, I want to make everything spicy and flavorful!

Oven baked blackened tilapia with roasted ol' thymey mushrooms.

Oven baked blackened tilapia with roasted ol’ thymey mushrooms. Fish is hard to transfer to the plate!

I found this easy recipe for oven baked blackened tilapia at 101 Cooking for Two. The only ingredient I didn’t have readily on hand was cayenne (ground anyway…I have several peppers in the drying stage). I substituted a chili powder mix I had and had no issues. I also was able to use both oregano and lemon thyme that I had harvested from my garden in June.

I also roasted up a bunch of mushrooms in a simple toss of olive oil, lemon thyme, a bit o’ ground salt and pepper, oven at 425 for 25 minutes. I had been craving mushrooms since Jen Sturm at Get With It For Life featured them in her newsletter (go sign up).


2 responses to “Learning to love fish!

  1. This looks SO yummy – thanks for the great recipe! Agreed about the texture of fish — most fresh water fish, and catfish in particular, is too soft for me, but have loved a rainbow trout or two in my day. I ❤ tilapia and spicy foods and will definitely try this! Hilarious about the shrimp/pantyhose memory… I think if I had that association, I'd steer clear, too! The best seafood i've ever eaten has a common theme: it was a) caught that day in ocean water I could see from my table, b) eaten after a long day of exercising/adventure, and c) paired with some salt and lemon, and usually a frosty beer. Thanks for the great post and inspiration!! is it lunchtime yet?

    • Thanks Emily! I ended up buying a big ol’ pack of the tilapia so holler and come over and we can cook some up. I even have some frosty ales in the fridge I have yet to try!

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