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February 27, 2013

Olives, capers give flavor boost to tilapia

Olives, capers give flavor boost to tilapia

When many Christians observe Lent, fish becomes a menu mainstay.

For an extremely mild-flavored fish, try tilapia — the fifth most-consumed fish in the U.S., according to the National Fisheries Institute.

Tilapia is a forgiving fish. Its firm flesh means it takes well to grilling, broiling, baking and pan sautéing. And generally one tilapia fillet is a decent serving for most appetites.

Tilapia can be bland. So if you’re cooking tilapia, look to other ingredients to flavor the fish.

Today’s recipe pairs tilapia with fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, olives and capers.

Kalamata olives and capers are great pantry staples. Both have great salty-briny flavor and a little of each goes a long way. Because of their saltiness, you can scale back on much of the salt in the recipe.

Kalamata olives are Greek black olives that are about 1/2 to 1 inch long and almond-shaped. Many are a deep purplish color. Typically, they are packed in a brine and sometimes in olive oil.

Simple uses of kalamata olives include setting them out as an appetizer, processing them into a paste with olive oil and other ingredients to make tapenade, and roasting them with fish, chicken and even lamb. Kalamata olives are common fare at stores that have so-called Mediterranean olive bars. These olive bars typically have several varieties of olives, including green olives, sometimes along with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella. My local Kroger has at least six olive varieties, including pitted and unpitted and a medley of olives with feta cheese.

If you buy kalamatas with pits, it’s easy to remove them: Press a long chef’s knife along the back of the olive and smash it. The olive’s semi-soft flesh will split, revealing the pit.

When you buy olives from an olive bar, choose those that are already pitted — unless you’re going to set them out on an appetizer tray. It will save time and money because most olives bars charge by the pound whether the olives are pitted or not.

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