Join Me in the Kitchen – Tilapia Packets

Vicki McGraw
Vicki McGraw, Jamestown Gazette Contributing Writer

A really great event has been taking place in Chautauqua County, specifically on Chautauqua Lake over the past week. It wasn’t widely publicized while it was going on, but on February 9, 2013, Chautauqua Lake and the Major League Fishing tournament will be shown on the Outdoor Network and the NBC Network. Little old Chautauqua Lake, hosting such premier, professional anglers as Tommy Horton, Gary Klein and Shaw Grigsby! In speaking with these men, I learned they were thrilled not only with the wonderful size and quality of bass (both large and small mouth) that they were able to catch (and release), but they spoke very kindly of the beauty of the Chautauqua region and it’s amazing resources.

Now, why, you ask am I going on about a fishing tournament? Well, it has made me think of some really great recipes I have for fresh fish! (Elegant Edibles was also one of the tournament sponsors, providing lunches for the fishermen during some of their time on the lake, so I was all about fishing for a few days!). I love fresh fish, and if it were up to me, the McGraw family would be served it at least a couple of times a week. Unfortunately, I do not have the majority vote when it comes to meal time, so I must share the menu selection with the other members of the household.

One of my favorite aspects of preparing and serving fresh fish is the amazing flavor and texture that frequently is missing from a lot of fresh frozen products. A simple dash of seasoning or splash of marinade will add subtle flavor, or you can add more if you choose, to enhance, rather than cover up, the flavor. Whether cooked on the stove, in the oven, under the broiler or on the grill, cook time for fresh fish is short! Package to table in under thirty minutes isn’t unusual.

I personally don’t like to stare my food in the face, so I purchase fresh fillets, rather than the whole fish. We have several markets in the area with terrific fresh fish departments where the available offerings change seasonally, if not daily. If you are adventurous, perhaps you will catch your own and take it from the top!

A common misconception of fish is that it smells “fishy.” A fresh cut of fish should always have a pleasant smell, never fishy or foul. It should also have a firm texture, not mushy or slimy. If it does look or smell questionable, remember, when it doubt, throw it out! Never take a chance by eating spoiled food! It isn’t worth risking a stomach ache (or possibly worse…) to not start over!

My challenge to you this week is to skip the bag of fish sticks in the frozen food case and go directly to the fresh fish counter. Choose a couple of fillets (tilapia is usually an easy fish to learn to cook for starters!). Grab a lemon, salt and pepper, some bread crumbs and olive oil and prepare yourself for a delicious dinner!

Tilapia Packets

  • 4 5 to 6 oz tilapia packets
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin, seeds removed
  • 1 small zucchini, julienne sliced
  • 1 small summer squash, julienne sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienne sliced
  • 2 T butter
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • 4 foil sheets
  • Baking spray

Place each fish fillet on lightly sprayed foil sheet. Top with lemon slices and julienned veggies. Sprinkle with lemon pepper. Fold and tightly crimp foil together to seal packet.

Place packets on grill over medium high heat. Cook 12-15 minutes. Packet will fill with steam while cooking; beware of the steam when opening it!