fennel and tomatoes over… anything

January 30th, 2009 · 41 Comments


i used tilapia. o’charley’s perpetual "catch of the day". and really,  it’s a nothing kind of fish. farmed. not terribly exciting, yet i buy it all the time. tilapa is inexpensive. you can’t seem to overcook this fish. it crisps up with minimal oil. and it goes well with almost anything and everything. it’s definitely not the fish you have a fling with, it’s the one you marry. i have flings with, say, chilean sea bass – expensive and rich. but tilapia is your everyday fish. you can totally count on tilapia.

so my latest greatest is to chop up a fennel bulb and throw it in a pan with 2 teaspoons of oil and get it all browned up. i added minced garlic and some capers – an anchovy would work nicely too, and then a minute later some chopped fresh tomatoes (good canned are an option). and oregano. i love oregano. it’s right up there with thyme as my favorite herb. and rosemary. and basil. anyway, just season that up, add a bit of water, cook it down for a few minutes and put it on top of whatever’s going. fish. chicken. pork chops. pasta. italian sausage, giant lima beans… then add a few good olives. the fennel frond garnsh was for you – because i care. especially after the beige food assault of ’09.

while adhering to ‘the plan’, not only do i count every calorie but i weigh everything. because i am neurotic that way and because i secretly kind of like it. i realize this eccentric ‘production’ isn’t for everyone but i can’t impress upon you enough how effective it is. i am trying to set myself up for success. because failure is just not an option. speaking of which, do you remember when wynonna went on oprah, all "i need to put myself on my list because i do sooooo much for my fans and family that i have no time to eat right even though i have a personal chef and trainer on staff"? it just wasn’t pretty on so very many levels. (personally, i think she left oprah’s studio and her first stop was shoney’s… bless her heart. (fyi – this is what they say in the south.))

i often make this for dinner even with fennel at $4 a bulb. and hey, by the way, is it me or are ‘whole foods’ produce prices out of control? anyway, the good news is that you get everything on that plate for in the neighborhood of 375 calories – and that right there is a caloric bargain. and c’mon. you gotta admit. that’s awesome…


Farm-raised tilapia has very low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, but high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, new research shows. Researchers say this combination could be dangerous for some patients with conditions including heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto immune diseases.

The study is in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Senior study author Dr. Floyd H. Chilton is quoted in the article: "If you’re in a vulnerable population such as a heart disease patient, you need to be very careful with what you’re eating, and that includes everything. But when it comes to fish, there’s not a more important thing you can do for heart disease than eat the right type of fish or take dietary fish oil. There is evidence that you may harm yourself by eating the wrong kind of fish, and [farmed] tilapia and catfish are the two that fall into that category."

and now 2 complimentary puppy pics of grace at 10 weeks old on her 7th day at home. because she is just too damn cute not to show off.




Tags: fish · greens · mushrooms · tomatoes · travel · vegetables · venison and other game

41 responses so far ↓

  • 1 The Expatresse // Jan 31, 2009 at 3:14 am

    “Beige food assault.”

    You make me laugh.

    You haven’t experienced beige food until you’ve eaten at my mother-in-law’s: pork chops in Crisco (beige), mashed potatoes made with non-dairy generic coffee “whitener” and spreadable margarine (beige), iceburg lettuce salad (beige) . . . and that’s if we are lucky.

  • 2 page rack // Jan 31, 2009 at 5:16 am

    please check http://pageracks.com

  • 3 Jennifer Hess // Jan 31, 2009 at 7:40 am

    You know, I haven’t had it as often as I probably should, but I’m a fan of tilapia. Like you said, it’s inexpensive, the texture is satisfying, it’s a great base for other flavors, and it’s a snap to cook up.

    And you know my deep love for fennel and tomatoes, over anything.

    Cracking up at Shoney’s. Ah, memories of childhood travels and bottomless iced tea (a/k/a a mess of sugar with a splash of liquid).

    Grace is just beautiful. I want a puppy.

  • 4 lisaiscooking // Jan 31, 2009 at 7:51 am

    I hear what you’re saying about tilapia, but I’m no tilapia hater. It works well in grilled fish tacos. The fennel and tomatoes looks great; that’s a delicious-looking 375 calorie plate.

  • 5 Choosy Beggar Tina // Jan 31, 2009 at 8:05 am

    You just summarized why I love tilapia – it’s versatile and adaptable, easy to handle, affordable (big plus) and harder for me to mess up. What’s not to like?

    Also, fennel and olives and anchovies? My heart swoons. If you could have stuck a lump of dark chocolate on top and snuck some goat cheese on the side, I would have made this my screen saver.

  • 6 ceeelcee // Jan 31, 2009 at 8:14 am

    It looks like a certain puppy is being spoiled.

    And deservedly so…

  • 7 Amy at Minimally Invasive // Jan 31, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Love this preparation. You get such big flavors for such a small investment of time and money. Oh, and calories. Win-win-win.

    Should I send you my recipe for homemade dog biscuits or are you not quite there yet? The sheer number of toys in Grace’s crate would indicate you’re pretty close…:)

  • 8 The Italian Dish // Jan 31, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Wow, interesting update on the tilapia. Hmmm. I like tilapia because it’s a fish my kids will actually eat. I guess just fixing it once in a while is the way to go – it is a source of protein. Thank you for the Grace photos! Big smile here. By the way, Claudia, I don’t think she has enough toys. You might want to buy her some.

  • 9 krysta // Jan 31, 2009 at 10:38 am

    i saw the title in my reader and said… i agree without having read the post yet.

    looks like grace is already spoiled, look at all those toys!

  • 10 ponyboat // Jan 31, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Had grilled tilapia street tacos last night! Mmm, not sexy, but oh so versatile (wait I was talking about the fish right?)

    And fennel and tomatoes are such a perfect pair. Throw last night’s leftovers in a pot with some clams, mussels and squid, a few leeks, and we are talking serious cioppino!

  • 11 Samantha // Jan 31, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    That is one gorgeous plate of food. I too am trying to knock off the pounds and am going to make this one soon. You know, even if tilapia isn’t super healthy it’s still not super unhealthy either…

    Thanks again for another cool dinner. Quick, easy and delicious with your fantastic Italian edge

  • 12 Lauren // Jan 31, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I just have to say, I think it’s lame that pageracks advertised themselves on your comments section.

    Ehmmm. That said, Grace is too cute. The food doesn’t look half bad either. I’ve had a bad, constant fennel craving lately.

  • 13 Mary Coleman // Jan 31, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    That looks too good!! And Grace…lordy what a doll!!

  • 14 Marc @ NoRecipes // Jan 31, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Awww… sooo cute! What is she? Great simple recipe that I guess would work with most white meat fish. My latest thing has been flounder just because Whole Foods has had it on sale. I know what you mean about their prices though. Then again they’re one of the cheaper grocery stores here in Manhattan:(

  • 15 Tracy W. // Jan 31, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    cook eat FRET

    It’s a surefire thing!

  • 16 Peter // Jan 31, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Your dog needs more toys. What kind of a parent are you?

    I would probably eat the Sunday Times with fennel, tomato and olives on it. The food section, anyway.

  • 17 democommie // Feb 1, 2009 at 6:50 am


    Dear heart, beige food, you make it sound like an indictment. I take a pound of 60% dark chocolate and mix it with two pounds of white chocolate (I know, it’s not really chocolate, but, wth) and you know what I get? beige.

    A friend of mine told me a while back that out on the left coast they call that chain “Whole Paycheck”, because of it’s prices. My shopping choices here are Price Chopper (meh!) or Aldi’s (meh, but surprisingly some decent items if you know where to look). Of course we do have the farmer’s market when there’s a summer.

    That puppy looks like visiting royalty! I just got a line on rescue dogs the other day and if I decide on a poochcompanion that’s definitely where I’m going.

    I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly eaten tilapia, but I ate fish sticks for my entire Cath-O-Lick youth–how bad could it be. The fennel and tomatoes sauce sounds great. As soon as I finish the gallon of chicken, veal and other less identifiable meats that I made the other day, I’m gonna try that one.

  • 18 democommie // Feb 1, 2009 at 6:51 am

    should have been “gallon of …stew that…”

  • 19 robin // Feb 1, 2009 at 9:41 am

    My dog Champ is in the position allll the time – loves the crook of this hind legs scratched.

    And fennel, yes. Love it recently. Especially with fish and olives. Go you and your recaptured body!!

  • 20 kristie // Feb 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Holy shit. That puppy. My heart is breaking from the cuteness.

  • 21 Melissa // Feb 1, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    “itís definitely not the fish you have a fling with, itís the one you marry.”

    Great analogy.

    Yes, WF produce prices are crazy lately. I buy mine elsewhere these days, but still love their meat department.

    Thanks for the unhealthy fish blurb addition.

    And my head is exploding from the cuteness of your pup. *SQUEE*

  • 22 Abby @ mangerlaville // Feb 1, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    I have to say Tilapia is one of my least favorite fish, for ecological reasons alone. But the fennel and tomatoes sounds delicious, I would even eat this over roasted potatoes.

  • 23 ntsc // Feb 2, 2009 at 4:54 am

    I’ve been in a Whole Paycheck a couple of times, but don’t think I’ve purchased anything there.

    The puppy doesn’t look spoiled, the puppy looks like she is anticipating being spoiled.

  • 24 we are never full // Feb 2, 2009 at 6:25 am

    that puppy looks like he’s giving you “puppy dog eye” but isn’t he supposed to be doing that? oh my GOD give me that dog to snuggle with. he’s sooooo cute.

    you’re doing great w/ these heathy recipes. this is kind of veracruz-style but i like the addition of anchovy and lima beans for texture. nice.

    “catch of the day” – haven’t heard that in years.

  • 25 Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer // Feb 2, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I love the puppy pics – I too have new addition a 9 week old Lab named Lexi!! They are so yummy and adorable!!!

    Love the recipe looks incredible!!

  • 26 lo // Feb 2, 2009 at 10:22 am

    OK, first off — that puppy has got to be the most adorable thing I’ve seen…

    As for the food — this dish is the sorta thing that makes me wonder why I don’t count calories more often!

  • 27 Heather // Feb 2, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    So damn cute! Puppy’s not bad either.

    Try it with orange sometime (instead of tomato). It’s really nice. I like a little cardamom pod in there with the toms and fennel, too.

  • 28 Brittany // Feb 2, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Okay. Now I can’t decide which to make first. The origional tomato version or Heather’s orange cardamom.

    I have a shit ton of tilapia, as I (unapologetically) adore it.

  • 29 Irene // Feb 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Tilapia is also delicious topped with red and yellow bell peppers sauteed in a bit of chicken stock and balsamic vinegar. :) I like that it’s not a demanding fish and doesn’t have to have a starring role in everything. Chilean sea bass is like the sugar daddy with a yacht — needs special attention!

  • 30 Meg // Feb 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Food pics, puppy pics. Couldn’t really be better. Fennel is a long-time fave of mine, but, holy kee-rap, it looks like Whole Foods has gotten out of control if they’re hawking it at 4 bucks a bulb (that had BETTER be some perfect freaking fennel). Still… fennel is so good.

  • 31 Aunt Flora // Feb 5, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Love your take on combining talapia fish with fennel and tomatoes. I just discovered fennel, also escarole which with spinach makes a good soup. Will try to re-created your plate! Enjoy the new puppy – she found a great home!

  • 32 Marie // Feb 6, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Hi Claudia, I just made some tilapia too. I may not have a fling with it, but I really do like it! fennel and tomatoes is another great way to eat it!
    Looks great too!

  • 33 janelle // Feb 7, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I adore fennel… and tomatoes!

  • 34 Bren // Feb 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    haha. “over anything” is sooo right! i mostly used tilapia too for myself at home.. so easy to cook with, right! this looks great Claudia. and for 375 calories, i can afford to eat this twice a day. i’m trying to cut down to 1300 a day… not an easy task.

    and let’s not even talk about Whole Foods..

  • 35 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Feb 9, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Prices at Whole Paycheck out of control? Say it ain’t so.

    I love fennel and tomatoes together. This would be a great dish for my husband because tilapia is an easy fish for a non-fish person to cook and I know he will eat it.

  • 36 rebekka // Feb 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Hahah. I love the tilapia/marriage analogy.

  • 37 Lesley // Feb 10, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    That’s a lot of toys that puppy’s got! Wondering what the kitties think of her…

  • 38 Jeff // Feb 10, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Hey, C — I know this blog is all about cooking (and apparently really cute puppies), but as a gardener who gardens for the kitchen, I gotta add that fennel grows like a weed — plant the seeds and ignore them; at the end of the summer you’ll have your own organic-nearly-free fennel bulbs, plus the fronds and seeds in mid-to-late summer to put on salads and whatever. My best advice is to get someone else to dig them up….

  • 39 Jesse // Feb 11, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Oh that puppy!!!! She is gorgeous!! And that tilapia… o hells yeah that looks interesting. I wouldn’t mind eating that the whole week I think!

  • 40 Sam // Feb 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Those tomatoes looks great. What brand are they?

  • 41 The Culinary Sherpas // Feb 17, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    OMG! We just got a 10 week old Boxer mutt puppy, now 11 weeks. His name is Ricky Bobby and he’s a little freakin handle full. I am totally channeling Caesar Milan right now.
    Grace is BEAUTIFUL!
    Fennel anything…..hmmmmmmmmmm.
    We call Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck.
    Am I rambling……..

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