So, it’s Lent. A time to be more humble and less indulgent. A time to focus more deeply on matters of the soul than matters of the flesh. During the Biblical Lenten Season, Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days, right?
In my little circle of Italian Catholics, an explanation of Lent can easily be whittled down two words.
The fish fry is the go-to Friday hangout for peeps of my culture. From Mardi Gras until Easter, workplace conversations center on which church basement has the best fry. Catholic school moms volunteer and invite their friends. I volunteered once with my Aunt May, who was the Epiphany Church fish fry lady for years.
I’m sure Aunt May took on the fish fry job out of respect for her mother’s memory. My Nana was active in the church and good friends with the Bishop, so when I try to work out how my Aunt May, a lady who hated fish and never got on well with the church until she was older, became head cafeteria lady at the fry, it just makes sense. Since she has passed on, her son has taken on a ton of responsibilities at the church. I like to think Aunt May and Nana are smiling down from Heaven as they watch him step into their shoes.
I’m not big on fried fish, but we’ll go to a fish fry once in awhile on a Friday night, to support the cause. Also, I have been trying to get my family to eat more seafood, lately, so I’ve been cooking it at home. My kids weren’t thrilled at first – the six year old stomped around the house several times, proclaiming her refusal to eat gross fish. I ignored her, of course, and when I made the Tilapia recipe below, my kids had two helpings. (Not the six-year-old. She had a lucky case of strep throat and ate nothing but a popsicle for dinner that night.)
Recently, I went to visit my mother at her winter home in Florida. She made this dish, using flounder instead of Tilapia, and I loved it. Any mild, white, flaky fish will do.
Citrus Cilantro Tilapia
6-8 tilapia filets rinsed and dried
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes – reserve the fruit after squeezing the juice out
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ C fresh cilantro, minced plus more for serving
2T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Cups cooked rice
1 jar medium salsa
1 can rinsed and drained black beans
1 can pineapple tidbits
Whisk juices, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl then add the fish.
Let the fish marinate for 1-2 hours.
Meanwhile mix rice, black beans, pineapple tidbits and salsa and spread the mixture into a prepared casserole dish.
Lay the fish filets stop the rice mixture and pour the marinade all over the fish.
Top with lime slices and cilantro.
Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
A healthy dinner, perfect for a Lenten Friday when you’re NOT going to the fish fry.
Solemn Lent, everyone. (I wanted to say Happy Lent, but it just didn’t seem right.)
Eat well, and enjoy the fish fry!