Asian/Italian Fusion: Tilapia Filets, “Chicken Marsala Style”

With the new addition to our family I don’t get a lot of time to cook the way I used to.  I keep it pretty simple on the weeknights with just one meat and just one veggie (no starch), which has also helped a little with losing those last 10 lbs I’ve been trying to get rid of after mommyhood.  That said, I recently discovered how wonderful the fish is at Crystal Springs Fish & Poultry and have been making a point to get a few fish filets on saturday to cook during the week.  While I’ve had years of experience with chicken, beef & pork, cooking fish is relatively new to me and there have been a few misses along the road.  This recipe however, which is a riff on my favorite chicken marsala dish at buca’s, is definitely a keeper.  🙂

I also included my favorite recipe for lacinato kale.  I am seriously addicted to this preparation–poor hubby gets it at least once a week!

Tilapia Filets, “Chicken Marsala Style”

2 Tilapia filets, 1.5 lbs total weight
1 shallot, minced
1 T butter
3 slices ginger
3 T flour
6 white mushrooms, washed and sliced
Salt & Pepper
3T Choya Umeshu Plum wine

Rinse the tilapia filets and season both sides with salt & pepper.  In a non-stick pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ginger, then the shallots and let butter brown.  Dredge tilapia filets in flour and immediately place into the pan (don’t do the dredge part beforehand, everything will get soggy).  surround the filets with the sliced mushrooms.  Let cook without flipping for ~5 minutes, until a golden brown crust forms.  Flip filets to the other side and repeat.  Remove the filets to a serving plate, reserving the mushrooms in the pan (when cooked through tilapia is white with no pink in the center).  Deglaze w/plum wine, and reduce about half, then pour over fish filets.

Sweet & Spicy Lacinato Kale 

1 bunch lacinato kale
3 dried spicy red peppers, or 1 t pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic
2T grapeseed or other vegetable oil
3T mirin
2T soy paste

Wash the kale and cut crosswise (across the stem) into half inch slices.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and add spicy pepper and garlic, cook for 1 minute to let the flavors permeate through the oil.  Add the kale and toss to coat relatively evenly.   add mirin and cover for 1 minute.  add soy paste and stir to distribute. cook for another minute to caramelize a little, and you’re done!!

** As a side note, I also learned recently that not all farmed fish is bad.  At Crystal Springs Fish and Poultry they carry Loch Duart farmed salmon, which is raised in pens in the ocean.  So…no overfishing of wild salmon and you don’t have to ingest gross antibiotics.    But the best thing is this salmon is absolutely delicious…tender and marbled with all those good-for-you fish oils.  In fact, they serve this salmon at the french laundry and Prince William and Kate’s wedding!  If it’s good enough for the duke of cambridge, it’s good enough for my family. 😉


I like cooking, but the effort which material acquisition requires is usually something I’ll only expend for special occasions. One instance that I am especially proud of was for m’s bday. After planning surprise parties, costume parties and various other productions, I was happy to do something a little more chill. The polls are out but I think he was happy with the results. 🙂

On the menu that evening was rack of lamb (difficult), moroccan couscous with mint (medium), grilled asparagus & tomatoes (easy) and a fruit pavlova which we invited friends over to share. The pavlova was not so much difficult as tricky as I didn’t whip the cream enough to really hold its shape. In any case, the results were not the prettiest but it still tasted damn good.

In contrast to the “liberated woman of the 90’s”, I find cooking to be therapeutic and a great way to see results with minimal effort. There’s a certain satisfaction which comes from investing just a few hours of work so that people you care for can enjoy a good meal.

Goodbye, Fremont

Many people don’t know this but I didn’t learn how to drive until I’d graduated from college. Because of this, while deciding on a place to call my post-collegiate home, choices were limited to areas accessible by BART, so that I could commute to my job in SF in the mornings. I was very lucky at the time–completely naive, I didn’t even have a roommate and ended up finding Old Roomie on an alumni mailing list. she was a few years older and so much more liberated and worldly…she certainly made life very fun.

We settled in a four room single family home, just off the bridge in fremont. Through the years, a number of 3rd roommates cycled through the place, some real cool but some just plan psycho or difficult to live with. For four years we lived there! I never thought time could pass so fast. Despite the stigma of living in Boring Fremont, I found that when the time came for our landlady to sell the place (and us to move out), I was sad to leave.

Reasons why Fremont is a great place to live.
1) Half Price Books – my favorite bookstore to this day. Spacious, clean, and browseable, they carry a very current selection of new releases at very reasonable prices. and they pay cash for the stuff you trade in!
2) Largest afgan community in the United States, making for some great Afghan restaurants – my favorite was the “Kebab Place” on Fremont blvd, a literal hole in the wall with two grandmas behind a charcoal stove. The lamb kebabs were excellent, as were the stuffed potato crepes served with yogurt. If you could get past the grit, so delicious.
3) Uncle Yueh’s – this place closed down, but they had the best scallion pancakes I’ve ever had in my life (except yours, grandma 🙂 ) peppery, and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. they also had excellent shao bing jia rou (sesame pastry with beef & cilantro), lots of cantonese slow cooked soups, and a very tasty taro and duck dish.
4) Pho 99 – in its day, excellent pho, vermicelli bowls, rolls, and pearl tea. cheap, too!

5) Accessible: to 680 – a beautiful drive to pleasanton as I did for about a year, 880, 84, and 237. Fry’s electronics, what used to be Tri-City sports, Old Navy and Marina Foods
6) Little Taiwan. enough said. If you like hot, look for ninji hot pot, which comes in three intensities: mild, hot, or searing.
7) it’s cheap, cheap, cheap. we had a huge place, and the landlady liked us…I think I paid around 650 a month!

When you’ve been living in a place for a while, a home is like a living entity, it becomes a part of you with a personality of its own. In the four years we lived there, we had collected various furniture and had gotten things to a state where they were “just right”. It was hard to leave when it was time.

We’re free–let’s roast marshmallows!

Ahh….there’s nothing like the smell of a wood burning fire. Unfortunately, with California’s environmental laws, wood fires are few and far between. You can hardly even find them in home fireplaces anymore as new homes are mandated to be built with gas–a shoddy substitute. After some research, I found that one of the only places in SF to create this elusive scent in public was at Ocean Beach. I few friends and I donned windbreakers, packed up the tiki torches and campfire forks, bought plenty of marshmallows (and other roast-friendly foods) and were on our way.

It was ridiculously hard to get the fire started. 100% of the attendees were engineers and more than 90% were EE/CS, so I guess you could say weren’t well versed in the material science/chemistry aspect of the exercise. After numerous attempts using a variety of methods, materials, and a dangerous (and probably not appetizing) amount of lighter fluid, we finally threw in the towel and “bartered” for a flame from some of our fellow fire lovers on the beach. In no time at all however, we had a cheery blaze going, and started on our way to quenching the flame of hunger.

A few notes about roasting things to eat on the beach: 1) it’s sandy 2) it’s windy too, so sand will likely get in your food no matter how hard you try to block what you’re eating with your body 3) foil is your friend 4) curry fish balls and pre-cooked sausages work well 5) potatoes and corn do not 6) no matter the sand, the cold, the wind, and the consumption of undercooked food–everyone is guaranteed to have a fabulous time.

Photo credits to t and jk–thanks guys!!