Home From Erika's Kitchen Love Your Herbs: Cilantro, and a Cilantro-Rubbed Tilapia with a Citrus Salad

Love Your Herbs: Cilantro, and a Cilantro-Rubbed Tilapia with a Citrus Salad

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Believe it or not, I was never much of a fresh herb enthusiast. I don’t know why, but it was always just so intimidating. Even though you could usually buy a nice, fat bush of ’em for about a dollar at most stores, it didn’t matter – I wouldn’t know what to do with that herb, and that dollar would go to waste. I could spend it on something I knew what to do with… like candy.

Yes, I can feel your side-eye through the screen. I know. I know.

Alas, I learned a little something along the way. Most importantly, if I’m buying a giant bush of herbs, I try to use those herbs in as many ways as I can in one fell swoop. Since the average bunch lasts maybe a full week, I try to be mindful of what I can cook with it, and I’m generally using big handfuls of them at a time.

What can I say? I like flavor.

Cilantro!

I like herbs.

Tomatillo Salsa...with Cilantro!

I like cilantro. A lot.

Marked by its lemony-scent – if it reminds you of coriander, it should; coriander is the ground up seeds of the cilantro plant – and its super-serrated leaves, cilantro is great for adding a punch to salsa, guacamole, stir-fry, and spices up an otherwise average fish pretty quickly.

As I’m going to try to do below.

My 3 kinds of oranges... the bruised-looking one is the blood orange.

I ran off to the store and grabbed three of every citrus fruit I could find – one for each person. Lemons, limes, grapefruit, blood oranges, navel oranges, valencia oranges… I just kinda went for it. Brought them home, skinned them all with a paring knife.

Cut the skin off the blood orange, then cut it into slices

Cut the skin off the blood orange, then cut it into slices… then do that for the rest of the fruit.

Make your way through all of your citrus fruit, saving all of the peels.

Set your citrus aside in a bowl, and save your peels!

Set your citrus aside in a bowl, and save your peels!

You’re going to take a zester, and scrape the colored part off the rind, trying your best to avoid the bitter white pith beneath it.

Mmmm....citrus zest.

Mmmm….citrus zest. Lemon, lime, and orange.

See that garlic, all nice and finely chopped up in the little bowl there? Do the same. One clove of garlic for every person you’re cooking for. Yes, everything in this recipe is relative – don’t be afraid of not having hard numbers for stuff. Adventure time… or something.

Grab your bunch of cilantro. Cut off a nice, giant chunk of it, and chop it down. It doesn’t have to be a fine cut, but you do want it to be cut pretty nicely. Drop all your zests, a pinch of salt, a shake or two of crushed red pepper, a tablespoon and a half of organic canola oil, a fat pinch of cilantro, and a tablespoon and a half of apple cider vinegar. Slosh it all around with your hands – yes, with your hands – and make your rub.

(Cheapskate tip: save your skins, and the next time you’re in the kitchen, multi-take by scraping the colorful, flavorful zest off using a peeler, and freeze it! You’ll always have zesty goodness on hand, even if you don’t have citrus!)

Making your rub!

Making your rub!

Boom. Grab your fish.

Fancy up that tilapia, boo.

Fancy up that tilapia, boo.

Take a teeny pinch of salt and sprinkle it across one side, then turn over your fillets and sprinkle another teeny pinch across the other side. Then get to rubbin’… and cookin’. For two adults and one child, I used five fillets.

Throw down.

Throw down.

A couple of quick tips, for you? Add a little canola oil to your skillet, or use a non-stick skillet. Fish is notorious for breaking when you try to turn it or pull it out of your skillet, so keep your non-stick on hand. Also, don’t let your fillets touch. They, too, could fuse together in the skillet and wind up tearing. You could also bake this fish. I just didn’t this time.

On medium heat – literally, maybe a 6 out of 10 – lay your fillets in the pan carefully. Let them cook to the point where they practically look done, except for the top. You’ll know this because the more they cook, the more opaque and “solid” they look. Eventually, only the very top will look uncooked. At this point – and only at this point – flip them over for about a minute. This way, I get the full fillet cooked, but I don’t drain out the freshness in the herbs too much.

Citrus. Delish.

Citrus. Delish.

Grab whatever leafy greens you’ve got on hand. I had frisée – which was the result of my “buy something you’ve never tried before” challenge that I do once a month – so that’s what I used. Too keep it from feeling hella dry, I mixed a teaspoon of oil with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of water together to make a quick dressing for it. Pour that over your leaves, and rub it in a bit. Add a pinch of salt, and start putting your citrus fruit on top. It might break apart, but whatever. It’s all going to the same place. (Also: Be smarter than me – chop up some extra cilantro and toss it with a teeny pinch of salt and sprinkle it over your citrus salad. I was rushing, and forgot.)

Toss your tilapia over the top of your salad, and you’re done.

Bon appetit, baby!

Bon appetit, baby!

Awesome, er.. I mean, dinner is served.

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3 comments

Jame April 30, 2013 - 11:31 PM

You forgot one of my fave tips. Add a huge handful to your salad. Works best with basil, mint, parsley, tarragon and cilantro. :). It is a green!

Joshua Hampton (Cooking Classes San Diego) May 6, 2013 - 3:51 PM

My mother used to prep tilapia like this, except she baked it rather than pan-fry it. Lovely dish; now I’m craving for a bite.

Michelle April 18, 2014 - 2:04 PM

Also, I learned this new year’s while seasoning my snapper, sour oranges add a wonderful flavor to fish. The oranges look like they’re about to be tossed out but soooo worth trying. Just squeeze out as many as you with onto the fish or add to your rub, back or sauté and…. BOOM!

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