Cashew-Crusted Tilapia with Lemon-Garlic Onions

Firstly, I’ll be reducing my post frequency to Mon/Thurs now (had been MWF). Truth is I don’t have as much time to be experimental AND write it all up in time, what with working now, so I need to be realistic. But no matter, this will give me breathing room to create, create, create! LiterEature posts will be the occasional special Sunday Edition too. I felt they deserve that superb honor. You may disagree. I may not care. J

Anyhoo, sometime last week I did have surprisingly ample amount of time to embark on a new, untouched, non-researched (to my detriment) endeavor with fish. My eyes stumbled upon a helpful pointer that could possibly aid me in my fight against my husband’s nose. Some of you may know that he has the nose of a bloodhound and can detect the essence of fish from 3 miles, 400 feet, 2 inches away. So I have to be damned perfectly sure that I prepared the fish perfectly so it retains NOTHING that could disappoint both him and myself Sweet boy that he is, he’ll still eat it, but enjoyment will suffer monumentally.

So imagine my delight upon reading that soaking fish in vinegar for 10-15 minutes takes care of that scent. It seems reasonable enough, and totally worth the shot, but as all I had on me was Rice Vinegar, I hoped that distinct flavor didn’t end up tingeing the fish with an aftertaste equally as sharp. Nevertheless I dared, and took it a step further decided to try something I always wanted to do—make a nut coating. I know, random. But mmm I remember the macadamia nut crusted chicken at my wedding, and it just had the perfect crunch to it, so why couldn’t I try something similar. But fish? Oy boy. And Cashews? Well, only time would tell how this would come out. And one disaster after another confirmed it: vinegar, fish, and nuts DO mix. This was the best fish I have ever made to date. Oh to have such disasters as this in the kitchen all the time…

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tilapia filets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter (or Smart Balance haha)
  • ¼ yellow onion, VERY THINLY sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated (or 3 tsp garlic paste)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • ½ cup unsalted, roasted cashews
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp (or more) dried basil
  • ½ tsp sesame seeds
  • Vinegar
  • Cumin/mustard seed roasted blend

Before anything else wash your fish and lay them in a shallow bowl or plate, drizzled with enough vinegar to coat all sides.

After prepping the fish, I caramelized the onions and made a rich “sauce” to pour over the fish. In a small frying pan, melt the butter into the olive oil and on low heat, add the onions and garlic. I didn’t even stir it once just let them sizzle, soften, and sweeten up on their own for a good 15 minutes or so, while I did other things. Perhaps 5 minutes in, I added the lemon and Salt & pepper to taste. Never have I cooked such delicate and wondrous onions. My heart fluttered like a butterfly in spring at the supreme texture.

In a blender, pulse the cashews, sesame seeds, salt and basil until you have a course chop. Now, I need a new blender, because what I’m using now resulted in a too fine blend of nuts. Far too fine and slightly powdery for what I wanted but such is life. That was disaster number one. Part two came along because I did not think to mix in bread crumbs. That would have helped dramatically in the whole sticking-on-and-adding-crunch-to-the-fish process, but you live, you learn. It tasted like magic though, so that’s all that matters.

Once the fish have soaked for 15 minutes, rinse them off, pat dry, and season both sides with salt, pepper, and cumin powder. G made a beautiful spice blend with cumin, mustard seeds and black pepper, but you can use anything really. Ah, now on to the next disaster.

I have since read and learned that perhaps the best course is to add a bit of oil or melted butter to your nuts (and breadcrumbs!) to make a moist crumb mixture, and then pat that onto one side of the fish, setting them in an oven to bake and then broil. Other variations include frying and then baking, or dredging the fish (flour, egg, crumbs) and then frying. I decided to rub some melted butter on them and just coat them up densely with the nut blend. Had the nuts not been too finely grated, this probably would have held up, but eventually the crumbs just wouldn’t stay on fiercely enough.

Anyway, I coated both sides with butter and crumbs, and then lightly fried each side until the coating crisped up a bit. I should have thought to bake at this point, but I didn’t. I just continued to fry them until the fish cooked through entirely, making a slow mess of the crumbs. And then, AND THEN!!, instead of adding the filets into the now prepared lemon-garlic infused onion bath of heavenly proportions, I poured that on top of the fish. Frothy madness ensued for a few seconds, as the rogue crumbs spluttered in sinful delight at their oily onion bath. OY.

That passed after a few seconds, and the fish cooked a bit in the “sauce”, simmering to maximum delight.

After a few minutes I was done, and looked hesitantly at the messy concoction. Would it pass muster?? I hardly thought so, but I dared a tiny bite before G came home later from work. WOW. I was impressed. I was less confident when G walked in and almost fell backwards from the force of the fishy scent that had erupted out of and away from the fish only to take residence in our apartment. I was completely immune to it having cooked for so long, but he was so scared to try the fish until I cajoled him with an angry pout.

Seriously, G has never been so wide-eyed and jaw-dropped at any fish I have cooked ever ever ever, and it saddens me that this was serious disaster fish and most likely could not be replicated precisely. I have detailed my course of action as specifically as possible, but maybe I got lucky with the vinegar. Maybe I wont be able to sauté my onions to perfect again. Maybe when I try to be healthier and bake it next time it won’t expunge all the fishiness.

Or maybe just maybe cashew nut crusted tilapia with lemon-garlic onions will become a staple of our home. Who knows. But it was deeeelish. (Even his sister was blown away by it. So clearly I rocked it good this time around.) Served this time with a pear-walnut salad and sauteed mushrooms and baby carrots.

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