Amy Scattergood's Cranberry Bean, Lacinato Kale and Pasta Soup
Tagliatelle with Braised Kale and Ricotta

Braised Tilapia with Leeks and Tomatoes


I am simply pathetic. NaBloPoMoWha? Sorry, folks, the ball has been royally dropped. I'd tell you all my very good excuses for why, but who really cares? I'm just going to pick up and keep going as if nothing happened. Won't you play along?

After all, I have to tell you about how I've managed to make tilapia tasty - a feat many of you, no doubt, will be perched on the edge of your seats to hear about. Oh, ha ha. I was not, I know, alone in my initial dislike of tilapia, Ben's favorite fish, when I first met the man and started cooking for him. Dislike's a bit strong of a word, but I guess I just found it so boring - mild, white and cheap. Snooze. Wouldn't you rather be eating cardboard?

But Ben gently rebuffed my attempts to serve something other than tilapia and then I read Bottomfeeder and realized that my choice of fish to eat (if I didn't want to go broke) was basically reduced to canned sardines, farmed oysters and American tilapia. Who knew Ben's favorite fish would turn out to be sustainable and responsible eating? I decided to find a way to like it.

Before I came along, Ben would bread his fish and pan-fry it, so I followed suit for a while, adding cayenne and salt to the breadcrumbs, but almost fell asleep at dinner. Give me a bowl of cereal instead!, I'd beg. I ate a gorgeous piece of broiled tilapia at a Greek restaurant, flecked with oregano and brightened with lemon, so I turned to my broiler at home for a while before losing interest in that, too. Then two weeks ago, in a fit of genius, I figured out the preparation I'd been looking for and man, is it good, if I do say so myself.

Okay, so here's how it happens, if you're cooking for two people: Buy two fillets of tilapia, a very big leek, or two small ones, a bunch of cherry tomatoes (you'll use cup or two), and a bottle of dry white wine (I like Muscadet - it's bone-dry, which is how I like my white wine - but I'm sure you have your own favorite). Go home, slice your leek in half lengthwise and rinse out the dirt as best you can. Then cut the leek halves into thin half-moons, not just the white part of the leek, but the pale green, too. Discard the tough, dark parts.

Heat a spoonful or two of olive oil in a 10-inch saute pan over medium heat and throw in the leeks. Cook, stirring, for about 7 minutes or until the leeks have softened. Don't let them brown. Add a sprinkle of salt and some pepper and stir well. In the meantime, wash and half the cherry tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the leeks and stir to combine. Cook for a few minutes, then add a good glug of white wine. Cover the pan and turn the heat down somewhat, then let the leeks and tomatoes cook for about 10 minutes. Check the pan and stir every once in a while to make sure that the vegetables aren't burning or sticking to the pan. The tomatoes should soften and collapse. Slip the fish fillets into the pan, making room among the vegetables. Spoon some of the tomatoes and leeks over the fish, cover again and cook for about 7 minutes, until the tilapia is flaky and white but still moist.

Serve this with a glass of that nice Muscadet and plain boiled rice to soak up the leeky-sweet sauce. You will find yourself simply gobbling it up. Wouldn't you know that I actually look forward to tilapia now? Insane, what love will have you do.