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Lean, moist, delicate ... this is today's tilapia.

Lean, moist, delicate . . . this is today's tilapia Although a relative newcomer to American fish markets, tilapia is actually not a new fish at all. This small, perch-like fish is a native of Africa and has been known to man since Biblical times. Legend says that tilapia was the fish Christ multiplied a thousandfold to feed the masses.

Tilapia is extremely hardy. Because it's a warm-water fish, its only essential requirement seems to be temperatures above [55 degrees]. It survives in fresh, salt, or brackish water and with no supplemental food, eating only algae present in the water. Tilapia also needs very little oxygen, which enables it to withstand crowded conditions. Its main drawback is a tendency to act like a sponge and pick up flavors from the water it lives in. In the past, this characteristic gave tilapia a bad name; the wild fish often had a muddy flavor.

Farm-raised tilapia, on the other hand, has a clean, delicate flavor (similar to that of petrale sole). Although a lean fish, it maintains a moist, tender texture when cooked.

Tilapia's hardiness makes it an ideal fish for farming. And today, tilapia is farmed worldwide, in such places as the Middle East, Mexico, and Taiwan, as well as in the United States. In this country, there are tilapia farms in several states, including California, Arizona, and Hawaii. These farms raise the fish in tanks with clean water and use population control methods and nutritionally balanced feed to ensure high quality.

A farm-raised tilapia weighs 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Fish farmers have developed hybrids that range in color from red-gold to silver-blue. (In the wild, the fish is grayblack.)

Tilapia is available whole, dressed (gutted, with head and tail attached), and as fresh or frozen fillets weighing between 4 and 7 ounces each. The retail price ranges from $6 to $8 per pound.

Whole Tilapia with Onion and Lemon

1 1/4 pounds (about 2 large) red onions, cut into 1/8-inch slices 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 1 whole tilapia (about 1 1/2 lb.), dressed (gutted, with head and tail attached) 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 2 large (about 1/2 lb. total) lemons 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (coriander) Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, mix onion with lemon juice and ginger. Arrange all but 1 or 2 onion slices in the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch or swallow 4- to 5-quart baking dish. Rinse tilapia; pat dry. Brush both sides with oil, then lay fish on top of the onion mixture.

Cut off 1/2 inch from each end of lemons. Stuff fish cavity with reserved onion, lemon ends, and half the cilantro. Cut remaining lemon into thin slices; tuck slices around fish. Sprinkle remaining cilantro over onion and lemon in dish.

Bake, uncovered, in a [400 degrees] oven until fish registers [135 degrees] on a thermometer inserted into the thickest part and flesh is opaque but still moist-looking (cut to test), 20 to 25 minutes. To serve, gently pull off skin and serve fish with onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2.

Per serving: 344 cal.; 37 g protein; 10 g fat; 35 g carbo.; 149 mg sodium; 81 mg chol.

Oven-fried Tilapia with Roasted Onion

3 large (about 1 3/4 lb. total) onions, sliced thin 4 slices (about 3 1/2 oz. total) bacon, minced 1/2 cup cornmeal 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 large egg white, beaten to blend 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds tilapia fillets, rinsed 2 tablespoons salad oil Lemon wedges (optional)

Place onion slices in an 11- by 17-inch roasting pan. Sprinkle with bacon. Bake onion in a [500 degrees] oven, stirring occasionally, until onion and bacon are browned, about 35 minutes; keep warm.

Meanwhile, mix cornmeal and pepper in a wide, shallow dish or bowl. Pour egg white into another wide, shallow bowl. Dip each fillet in egg white, then roll in cornmeal, coating all sides evenly.

Pour oil into a 10- by 15-inch baking pan; swirl to coat pan. Place pan in a [500 degrees] oven for 5 minutes. With a wide spatula, transfer cornmeal-coated fillets to pan. Bake for 4 minutes. Turn fish over and bake until lightly browned and flesh is opaque but still moist-looking in thickest part (cut to test), 3 to 5 minutes more.

Transfer fish to 4 dinner plates and spoon the bacon and onion equally over fillets. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Per serving: 468 cal.; 38 g protein; 22 g fat; 28 g carbo.; 301 mg sodium; 96 mg chol

Poached Tilapia with Lemon and Basil

1/4 cup regular-strength chicken broth 3 tablespoons orange juice 2 tablespoons lemons juice 2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds tilapia fillets, rinsed About 8 whole fresh basil leaves 1 tablespoon shredded lemon peel

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, combine the broth, orange juice, lemon juice, and oil over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Add tilapia in a single layer to pan, cover, and slimmer gently for 4 minutes.

Lay 1 or 2 basil leaves diagonally across each fillet. Cover pan and simmer until fish is opaque but still moist-looking in thickest part (cut to test), 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer fillets with a slotted spatula to 4 individual places; keep warm.

Boil the pan juices, uncovered, over high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon equal amounts of sauce over fillets, thne prinkel each equally with lemon peel. Serves 4.

Per serving; 225 cal.; 32 g protein; 9.1 g fat; 2.3 g carbo.; 143 mg sodium; 81 mg chol.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:May 1, 1991
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