Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda

We try not to let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season prevent us from making an effort to cook at least a few healthy meals at home (although apparently we’re perfectly fine with it preventing us from writing blog posts — sorry!)  A home-cooked meal provides a sense of normalcy and comfort amidst all the decorating, shopping, wrapping, mailing, baking, etc. etc. of this time of year.  But it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.  “Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda” is a fancy name for a pretty simple fish dish.  “Bagna cauda” actually refers to a warm dip that is similar to fondue.  In this recipe, Giada De Laurentis gave the dip a citrus twist and turned it into a sauce for tilapia.  Genius.  And easy enough for a busy weeknight, with simple ingredients of butter, olive oil, orange juice, orange and lemon zest, anchovy fillets, garlic, basil and tilapia.


We used frozen tilapia fillets, easily thawed by running some cold water over both sides of each fillet for a few minutes.


Because the bagna cauda sauce comes together really quickly, it’s best to assemble the ingredients ahead of time.  The anchovies and garlic will be cooked first.


Then the chopped basil, orange juice and orange and lemon zest will be added to the sauce.


Start the sauce by melting butter and olive oil over low to medium heat, stirring often, until the butter is melted.


Stir in the anchovies and cook until they dissolve — about 2 minutes.  (Don’t be afraid of using anchovies — when cooked as a component of a sauce or some other dish, they aren’t fishy at all and add a nice, salty flavor.)   Next, add the garlic and cook until fragrant — about 30 seconds.


Remove the sauce pan from the heat and add the basil and citrus components.  Stir it all together and add a little salt to taste.  One of the great things about this dish is that you can make the bagna cauda sauce ahead of time (1 day ahead, max) then re-heat it before serving.


Prepare the fish by removing the brown center part of the tilapia (optional) and seasoning both sides of each fillet with salt and pepper.


Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, then add the tilapia and cook, turning once, until the fillets are opaque in the center — about 3-4 minutes per side.


Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve.  We served ours with an Italian bread salad.  The butter and citrus flavors came together nicely with the fresh basil to complement the tilapia and create a simple, yet elegant meal that we enjoyed as a healthy respite from the sometimes overwhelming (and overindulgent) holiday over-doing-it.

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