Thursday, March 16, 2006

Some like it Hot (and Sweet!)

Sometimes sweet is good. Sometimes just pure fire is the only thing that will quench the desire. Sometimes the combination of sweet and hot – sort of pleasure and pain all mixed up – is the answer.

Some years ago, Chili and Chocolate was my first conscience introduction to the hot-sweet concept – in the form of some fine quality truffles. I had been on a bit of a kick to find the ‘best’ chocolate at the time (while living in Germany, France and Switzerland for some years – what luck!), and naturally ran into all manner of variations on the chocolate theme. I liked it. The concept, the taste, everything about it. Not every time, maybe, but often.

Of course, I had made things that were both hot and sweet before, but not with such an awareness of the effects of the combination. Another one of those life-altering moments.

So when I looked at the two ripe mangos on my counter, and remembered the Serrano chilies we had bought a few days ago (10,000 to 25,000 Scoville units – more than a Jalapeno!), it was really just a matter of identifying the foundation for the impending hot-sweet bliss about to be created.

Fresh Tilapia fillets – on sale of course – looked good. They don’t have a strong flavor themselves, so they really kind of call out for a companion. They pan-fry well, lightly floured, maybe with a touch of seasoning in the flour. Just a few minutes per side is all it takes. Steamed rice as a base, some sautéed baby squash along side, and there it is!

Pan-fried Tilapia with Chili-Mango Salsa on Steamed Rice

2 lbs fresh Tilapia fillets
1 cup flour
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
salt, pepper
Olive Oil
Mango-Chili Salsa (recipe follows)
Cilantro for garnish
Mango slices for garnish
Steamed rice

Combine the flour, Cayenne pepper cumin, salt and pepper on a shallow plate. Lightly dust each Tilapia fillet on both sides in the flour mixture.

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan till hot. Sautee the Tilapia fillets, a few at a time, for just a few minutes per side until cooked through and lightly browned. Transfer the fillets to a plate and place in a warm oven while cooking the remaining fillets.

To plate – arrange some steamed rice on a warmed plate. Place two Tilapia fillets decoratively on the rice. Spoon some of the Mango-Chili Salsa over the fillets. Garnish with the Mango slices and some additional cilantro. Serve. Enjoy!

Chili-Mango Salsa

1 ½ ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, diced (reserve other ½ of a mango for the garnish)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 minced seeded Serrano chili
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

Combine first 8 ingredients in small bowl; mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Season salsa with salt and pepper. Let sit for at least an hour to allow the flavors to combine.

Just for fun – how I make steamed rice:

Steamed Rice – Cantonese style

Long grain rice

Take a pan with a tight fitting lid. The size of the pan depends only on how much rice you want to make. Add rice. This works for any amount of rice – it only depends how much rice you want to end up with. Add cold water until it covers the rice by just over 1 inch – this is easy to tell as you just stick your thumb into the water until it touches the rice, the water should come up to the first joint on your thumb. Boil the rice over high heat just until there is no more water above the rice. Cover the pan tightly, lower the heat to the lowest setting, and let the rice cook for an additional 15 minutes or so. Done!

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Blogger ilva said...

This sounds interesting...

11:20 PM  

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