Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Fish, A Father and an Avocado Walk Into a Kitchen…

Husbands know that guilt is a powerful motivator.  Putting down toilet seats is simply not in our DNA.  Those of us who do it…do it to avoid the guilt.

Likewise holding purses, not playing basketball with rolled up dirty socks, saying
“gosh darn it” when the quarterback fumbles, pretending to watch the movie “Terms of Endearment” (husbands call it “Terms of Endurance”), voluntarily vacuuming the carpet, and stating an unqualified preference for anything that seems important to our women as if it were equally important to us (see the above mention of “Terms of Endearment”).

For good or ill, guilt and food go together these days.  How far did it travel to your plate?  Is it on a list somewhere?  Did it ever have a face or a mother?  What was its quality of life while living?  Did you use artificial fertilizer to grow it?  Have you considered the starving children in (insert your favorite developing nation; and, yes, if it was good enough for my parents to ask me it’s good enough to harass my own kids about from time to time)?

I want to be clear that many of these questions are good questions.  They can be a bit overwhelming at times, though.  I respect anyone who goes further, but for my family we focus on a saying we heard from our favorite priest once upon a time:  “Do the good that presents itself to be done.” 

Which, of course, leads me to the subject of…fish.

A lot of food guilt is geared toward fish.  And for good reasons.  I wish, however, to side-step most of those issues (NOT that there’s anything wrong with that!).  Tilapia is a fish generally considered to be part of the “good that presents itself to be done” for those of us inclined toward fish.  It is a vegetarian fish that is a highly efficient protein factory, converting something like ¾ of a pound of its own caloric intake into a full pound of protein, though please do not quote those numbers (blast it, Jim, I’m a doctor not a marine biologist).  As you can see in the above picture, store-bought fillets also tend to look like a first baseman’s mitt, but that’s not important right now.

We eat a lot of tilapia around this house.  For those of you who know tilapia, however, you know that as a basic whitefish, it lacks an assertive flavor of its own.  It offers nice texture, though, and with a little thought can be a canvas upon which we can paint a (relatively) guilt-free meal.

On this particular night (as with most nights), I looked around at what I had on hand to add some flavor to the tilapia.  One avocado lurked in the fruit drawer.  I don’t know about your house, but one is not enough to make guacamole around here (a future post, no doubt; making guacamole in my house is like walking into a pit bull convention with a necklace of red meat and poodles).   

But, it is enough for a quick avocado dressing that can paint baked tilapia before serving.  Since I know everyone loves avocado (see guacamole reference), I figured I had an answer.

There is no magic here.  Bake the tilapia for about 15 minutes or so (I had thin pieces, so 15 minutes worked, but you probably do not want to go over 20 minutes regardless; test the thickest parts with a fork to check doneness, when it flakes it’s done).  Before serving, spread it with the avocado dressing.

Avocado Dressing
~1/2 a good-size pear-shaped ripe avocado
3 cloves of garlic
~ 2 tbsp of canola oil
~ ¼ cup of parsley leaves
Juice of half a lime (added in steps, you can always add more)
A splash of sherry vinegar
A few splashes of half & half, maybe 1/4 of a cup total

Whir it all up in a food processor.  Paint or dob it on the baked tilapia and serve.  Guilt free.  Then go mow the lawn before “Terms of Endearment” goes into the machine.

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