On Friday nights after long weeks, my preference is often to stay in rather than go out. Alex comes home from work relaxed, and we’ll eat dinner at the coffee table over Time Out New York, while we plan fun activities for the rest of the weekend. Saturday and Sunday sprawl ahead of us, and it’s the pinnacle of relaxation to sit and contemplate them, as if from afar.
There are nights when we’ll go out for a drink in Prospect Heights before or after dinner, and nights when we’ll veg in front of the TV, watching Buffy or The Wire. Some Fridays I’ll have dinner all ready when Alex walks in the door; other times, I’ll have a collection of ingredients and we’ll cook together. And don’t you worry: he cooks for me sometimes too!
This fish felt particularly indulgent, even though the dish began with a purchase of tilapia–the cheapest filets at the market. But its coconut coating and crisp, addictive vegetable salsa took it over the top. A good start to the weekend indeed.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Coconut-Crusted Tilapia with Vegetable-Mint Salsa
Serve each filet atop some white jasmine rice.
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¾ cup panko
¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons safflower oil
Two ½-pound filets tilapia
Vegetable-Mint Salsa (recipe follows)
Take out three shallow bowls. In one, put the flour, half the salt, and half the pepper. In the next, beat the egg well. In the last, combine the panko, coconut, and the remaining salt and pepper.
Rinse each tilapia filet and pat dry. Dredge the first through the flour, coating both sides, then transfer to the bowl with the egg, flipping to coat. Last, place the filets in the coconut-panko mixture, pressing it onto the filet and flipping to coat both sides. Repeat with the second filet.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat until just smoking. Add the filets and cover the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the fish releases easily from the bottom. Flip the filets, then put the cover back on and cook another 3-4 minutes, until the crust is brown and the fish is opaque and flakes easily.
Transfer to a plate and top with the vegetable salsa and garnish with the mint.
Makes 1-2 cups
½ large cucumber, seeds removed, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 cup)
4 radishes, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch dice (1/2 cup)
½ red pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice (1/2 cup)
¼ cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, pureed with salt
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
½ teaspoon neutral oil, such as grapeseed or safflower
¼ teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
1 ½ tablespoons lime juice.
Combine all the salsa ingredients in a bowl (except the mint for garnish) and mix well. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 2.