Poached tilapia with gremolata on spinach with almonds and dried apricots

TilapiaWelcome to post #100!

As I’ve been trying to lighten things up a bit, I was inspired by Orangette‘s recent paean to poaching fish. I trundled down to trusty Sun Fat to see what looked good. Though Molly calls for halibut, she notes that any fresh, firm, white-fleshed fish will do — freshness being the operative word. I decided upon reviewing the options that, based on sheer curb appeal combined with my knowledge of DPaul’s finicky nature when it come to fish, tilapia was the best option.

I followed Molly’s instructions on the poaching broth, using a combination of parsley, garlic and salt, with lemons at the ready for garnish. Wait a minute … parsley, garlic, lemon, salt … did someone say gremolata? I decided to enhance the flavors of the poach with that bright, pungent condiment.

For the side, some nice spinach just sounded right. DPaul’s been having muscle problems lately, and his trainer has compelled him to get more calcium. I know of no better source that combines calcium, fiber and other nutrients than dark leafies. To counter the softness of the fish and the tartness of the lemon, I used almond and apricot for crunch and sweetness, respectively. The apricots also served to absorb some of the liquid given off by the spinach, which both plumps them and keeps the end product from being too soupy.

In the end, overall good. In retrospect I would have doubled the amount of parsley, garlic and salt in the poaching liquid (it was a tad bland), and I perhaps went overkill on the apricots in the spinach. It never ceases to amaze me how much spinach cooks down. I mean, even the lady at the checkout counter remarked on how much spinach I bought, and it barely fed two in the end.

Still, I’m pleased with this dish. It is satisfying yet light, nutritious; low-fat, low-carb and a good source of protein. Plus, for those of you on Weight Watchers out there, it comes out to something like three points, maybe four by the time you drizzle oil over.

The what-I-would-have-done-in-retrospect recipe after the jump.

Poached tilapia with gremolata on spinach with almonds and dried apricots
For the fish:
4 1/4-lb tilapia filets (any firm, white-fleshed fish will do)
15 sprigs parsley, bruised
8-10 cloves garlic, smashed
1-2 Tbsp salt
1/2 lemon

Fill a large skillet with water up to about two-inch depth. Add parsley, garlic, salt. Squeeze lemon juice into poaching liquid. Cover and bring to a simmer. Remove lid, add fish and reduce heat. You want a bare simmer, with bubbles barely breaking the surface; any more violent and the fish will go tough and/or break up. Cook fish for 8-10 minutes for each inch of thickness.

For the gremolata:
2 Tbsp each parsley, garlic and lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 tsp very good extra-virgin olive oil
Mince ingredients individually, then combine and continue to chop into a coarse paste. Move into a bowl, and add salt and oil. Stir to combine.

For the spinach:
1/4 c. slivered almonds
3-4 dried apricots, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 lemon
2 large bunches spinach
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/4 tsp red pepper flake (optional)

Pluck leaves from spinach (the stems are too tough and bitter) and clean very well — spinach tends to be extremely dirty and gritty. Drain well, but don’t be afraid to leave a little moisture on the leaves; this will help wilt the spinach in the pan. Toast slivered almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside. Saute garlic in a drizzle of oil in same pan until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add apricots and spinach. When the spinach is nearly wilted, squeeze lemon juice and add almonds, and toss to combine. Add nutmeg and/or pepper flake if desired. Salt and pepper to taste.

In warmed bowls, lay a bed of the spinach. Using a slotted spatula, gently remove fish filets from poaching liquid and lay on the spinach. Sprinkle with salt and a crack of fresh pepper, then lay a spoonful of gremolata on top. Drizzle with very good olive oil and serve immediately.

  • VD

    Sounds delicious. Two comments: 1) Reduce the poaching liquid to make a sauce and to concentrate the flavors. Once the fish is done, take it out, and turn the heat to high while you cook the spinach.
    2) It’s best to drain the spinach thoroughly before cooking it. It will give off enough of its own moisture.

  • Good tips on the poaching liquid and the spinach. Greens are contentious in our house — I tend to like them a little soupy (love me the pot likker) but DPaul does not so much. I’ll drain more carefully in the future to be sure.