Tilapia with Veggie Salsa

Kris and I were vegetarians for maybe a year and a half. As I recall it started about the time we moved to Willow Springs and it ended when Liza began eating and clearly preferred meat. Kids have a way of doing that.

I don’t recall why we decided to stop eating meat; it was a time in our lives when we were going more basic and rustic. That doesn’t really explain why but that’s my story. We weren’t ever serious vegetarians. When we visited people or ate out meat was okay. It was just at home that we stuck with it.

Grocery stores in southern Missouri didn’t have a lot of seafood so we worked more with complementary protein combinations. Cheeses and beans and rice were pretty common along with eggs and canned tuna. I still use many of the ideas from that time in our culinary evolution though I don’t use many of the recipes.

As Liza and Claire went through high school they each had a vegetarian period.  I adjusted my cooking to accommodate but Kris and I weren’t as interested anymore. As each one went through their phase I agreed to cook meatless four nights a week. I adapted some of my recipes like enchilada pie and stir fry but I was a meat eater by now. I kept salad fixings and numerous frozen options for their alternate dinners.

Naturally, they didn’t go vegetarian at the same time. Liza was a swimmer and went back to meat when her times weren’t dropping. After Liza had gone off to school Claire asked for crab legs for her birthday. Seeing those exoskeletons put her off eating animals, even seafood, for a year or so.

So, anyway, fish and shellfish are not as regularly eaten in our house as they should be. Most research shows seafood is a healthier protein than terrestrial meats. I often set my mind to using seafood more but then I fall back in my red meat and chicken rut.

I have learned to check the packaged fresh seafood in the grocer’s cooler. These are generally the last of a case so they would like to sell it quickly. Sometimes they lower the price per pound or they underweigh it a bit so it’s a good deal. I was informed that this was common at least at my grocery store and I’ve since verified it several times. Watch the “Best by” date since these are often due to be eaten soon.

I found two particularly nice tilapia fillets. They were a manager’s special so it was even cheaper. Dinner was decided.


Tilapia with Veggie Salsa for 4

4              tilapia fillets
3 Tbs      flour
2 Tbs      butter, divided
2 Tbs      olive oil
1              leek, cut lengthwise and sliced thin
½ c          red pepper, diced small
1 c           broccoli, tops cut quite small and stems diced small
1 Tbs      tomato paste
2              Roma tomatoes, cut fairly big
½ c          cilantro or parsley, (Mexican or European)
juice of a lemon or lime (Mexican or European)


  1. Pat the fillets dry and season with salt and pepper.

Reflection #1: As I hinted above this can go either Mexican or European depending on your spice selection. Chipotle, ancho, cumin, and such or Herbes de Provence or Italian Herbs would be great.

  1. In a large skillet heat 1 Tbs of butter and 1 of olive oil. Heat to medium hot.
  2. Flour the fillets and sauté for about 4 minutes per side. Remove, set aside, and cover.
  3. Add the rest of the butter and oil. Sauté the leeks for 4 minutes.
  4. Add the red pepper and broccoli and continue cooking until just tender 4 or 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste until blended. Add the tomatoes and lemon or lime juice.
  6. Taste and adjust as needed. Salt and pepper are likely. Sprinkle with the parsley or cilantro.

Reflection #2: The tomato paste was an attempt to bind things a bit but I don’t think it was of any use.  I won’t use it next time.

Reflection #3: While working in the produce department I saw that broccoli came with varying stem lengths. Once they got to a certain length we started finding the stems broken off: tops are naturally more desirable. I’m not comfortable breaking off the stems so if they’re too long we have some other vegetable, or like today, they were pretty long but I diced them up and added them to the dish.  I generally put the stem pieces in before the tops since they’re denser and need more time.

Reflections #4: Speaking of broccoli, it’s something of an oddball here. Use whatever you want instead. Small diced green beans, corn, more tomatoes, tomatillos, or zucchini would be good alternatives.

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