Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tilapia with Thai Curry Sauce

Recipe: Tilapia with Thai Curry Sauce

In 1958, a person living in the United States had a life expectancy of 69.6 years. The average new home cost just a shade under $12,000, tuition at Harvard was $1,000 per year, eggs were 28¢ a dozen, and gasoline went for 24¢ a gallon. And I was born. Fifty years ago.

I know that I can’t turn the clock back, and there’s really nothing that I can do about it, so I’ve tried not be all gloomy and maudlin. For the most part, unless I start thinking too much, I’ve been able to handle it in a fairly sane manner. No gnashing of teeth or wailing inconsolably for me, I just have to deal with it.

Jack knows that I am terrified to be the center of attention so he quickly turned away any suggestions of a big celebration which were given by well-meaning friends and relatives. Instead, he planned a wonderfully quiet few days which were shared by the two people who were there with me those 50 years ago, my parents. They surprised me by showing up at our lake house, we went out to eat, and talked and laughed and enjoyed each others’ company. My parents went through some old slides of my first 7 years, made them into prints, and put them together in a book. These were photos with pictures I am unfamiliar with (because as much as we look through old photo albums, we never get the old Kodak carousel out for a spin), wonderfully hilarious photos, and a perfect way to celebrate my birthday. We went out to eat 3 meals in a row (unheard of, really, since I am usually not very happy with restaurant food but, this time, there was not a single complaint). Mom made me a chocolate-raspberry cake, Dad decorated it, and it was delicious. All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend.

We planned to return back to the farm on Monday, but decided to stretch it out until Tuesday. We returned several hours ago. I unpacked and, upon seeing some ready-to-harvest asparagus in the garden, planned to make a simple pasta primavera for dinner. Now I have some spare time and since I haven’t posted here in nearly a week I should do so. I did make a great pizza crust on Sunday for dinner (a 10-hour rather than an 18-hour no-knead crust), but I need to refine it a bit more so it will be a future post. Breakfast this morning was lowfat vanilla scones with strawberries, but the ingredients are still written on a scrap of paper so that also will be a future post. Going backward… dinner last Wednesday night was terrific, although I didn’t have time to write about it. Until now!

I love tilapia. It’s a very mild fish which readily absorbs flavors and has a soft-but-slightly-firm texture that we enjoy. I had some coconut milk and spinach to use up, and cilantro, so I broiled the tilapia, served it over spinach-rice, and covered all with a Thai style coconut-curry sauce.

This was soooooo good.

I normally use basmati rice with Thai dishes, but I was too lazy to go to the basement pantry to refill the kitchen rice jar from the 25-pound bag, so I used parboiled rice. I think that this type of rice, which is sturdier and chewier than the delicate basmati is, was perfect for the bold flavor of the sauce. The tilapia also has a delicate texture, so I believe that the basmati rice might have made this dish texturally too “soft”.

The sauce is a mixture of light coconut milk blended with lowfat half-and-half (coconut extract is added just before serving to really punch up the coconut flavor), sautéed vegetables, both curry powder and curry paste, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Its bright gold-yellow color comes from the Penzey’s sweet curry powder which I used, and looked great with the sprinkling of dark green cilantro on top. A squeeze of lime over top, and you will swoon. We did.

* Exported from MasterCook

Tilapia with Thai Curry Sauce

Recipe By: Vicci
Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
---------- ---------- ----------------------------------------
2/3 cup parboiled rice
3 ounces baby spinach -- steamed, cooled, squeezed (or use frozen, thawed, squeezed chopped
1/2 cup light coconut milk -- divided
1/2 cup lowfat half & half
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
3/4 teaspoon red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
2 1/2 ounces bell pepper -- colored preferred; finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces sweet onion -- finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
3/4 teaspoon coconut extract
10 ounces tilapia
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 large lime -- cut into 2 wedges

Cook the rice according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. While the rice steams, prepare the spinach. When the rice is tender and the water has evaporated, drizzle 2 tablespoons of the light coconut milk over the rice, stir, add the spinach, and stir gently until mixed. Cover to keep warm.

Mix the first 8 ingredients (the remaining light coconut milk through cornstarch) in a small bowl until smooth. Set aside.

Drizzle the olive oil in a small nonstick saucepan and heat over a medium flame. Add bell pepper and onion and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook for an additional minute. Give the coconut milk mixture a stir (the cornstarch probably settled to the bottom) and add to the vegetables. Continue to cook over a low flame until the mixture begins to simmer. Remember that the lowfat half and half will separate if the sauce comes to a boil (it will not spoil the taste of the dish, but it won't be pretty). Stir as it thickens a bit then turn the heat as low as possible. Continue to barely simmer and stir often for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut extract.

Preheat a skillet or broiler and cook the tilapia until done.

Divide the rice between 2 large plates, topping with the cooked tilapia. Pour sauce over, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.

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Per serving: 216 Calories (kcal); 8g Total Fat (4g saturated); (31% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 10mg Cholesterol; 285mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fruit; 4 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

NOTES : This has a long list of ingredients, but the sauce (or only the ingredients, if preferred) can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated.

The coconut milk is supplemented with lowfat half and half which drastically cuts the fat and calories. Because the coconut flavor is desired, adding the extract at the end of the sauce's cooking time will ensure that it doesn't get "cooked away".