If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen. And now I happily pass what I have learned along to you, gentle reader.
Today I would like to share with you a recipe for a fast and easy-to prepare meal that I guarantee you will enjoy. I call it Tilapia Italiano and I was inspired to prepare the dish on a day when neither Nicole nor I had planned anything for supper. Here’s what was available: individually shrink-wrapped, frozen tilapia fillets, a couple of jars of marinara sauce, onions, garlic, some leftover oil-cured olives, a wilted but still edible bunch of parsley, extra virgin olive oil and a bottle of chardonnay. It turned out better than I imagined it would and is now one of Nicole’s favorites.
4 individually frozen tilapia fillets, thawed and removed from plastic pouches
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup onion, finely diced
6 large cloves garlic, minced
20 pitted, oil-cured olives, roughly chopped
1 cup chardonnay or other dry white wine
2 jars marinara sauce (24 oz to 26 oz ea)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley – reserve another 4 tbsp for garnish
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 lb. thin linguine
4 tbsp kosher salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Place a very large pot of water (8 quart capacity) on high flame and bring to the boil.
Place a large saucepan over high heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Add olive oil and onions. Reduce heat to medium and stir continuously until onions are translucent but no browned. Add garlic and continue stirring for a few more minutes. Add chopped olives and white wine; return heat to high and continue stirring until most of the wine has boiled off, then add Marinara sauce.
Reduce flame to low and cover pan. Simmer for 15 minutes and be sure to stir a few times to keep sauce from burning.
After 15 minutes, add linguine and salt to boiling water and stir for 30 seconds to ensure pasta doesn’t stick together.
Using a spatula, make wells in the sauce and place a tilapia fillet in each well. Shake the pan a little to ensure that everything settles down and then cover the pan. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and let cook for 5 minutes, then carefully turn over each fillet using a large flat spatula. Cover the pan again and continue simmering.
When the pasta reaches the al dente stage, drain into a large colander. Turn the heat off of the sauce pan and remove cover. Scoop up a cup of sauce from the pan and place in a large pasta bowl. Pour the pasta into the bowl and toss gently with the sauce. Add olive oil and toss again.
Using tongs or a pasta grabber, place the pasta in equal portions on 4 pre-heated plates. Using a large flat spatula, transfer a tilapia fillet to each of the plates, resting it on the pasta. Sprinkle a tbsp of parsley over each plat to garnish.
Serve with warm Italian bread, plenty of grated cheese (I prefer a mix of Parmegiano and Romano) and a dry white wine.