Growing up, I loved to fish. It was one of my favorite ways to spend time with my dad — and his parents, Mammaw and Pappaw, before they passed. They were big crappie (important note: pronounced “croppy”) fishers, which is still my favorite fish to eat.
My dad and I have clocked many hours at my aunt & uncle’s pond, on the river (for catfish, but no noodling for us, thank you very much!), or–when we could get there, out on the lake, usually angling for bass. I am still filled with peace picturing being out on the water at Pine Creek Lake in SE Oklahoma as the sun rises with a thick mist across the water, surrounded by pine trees. It never really matters if they’re biting on a day like that.
Having a big fish fry after a morning of fishing was almost as much fun as the fishing itself. As I’ve gotten older I a) have less time to do the fishing myself, alas, and b) have been trying to find healthier ways to prepare it than the cornmeal frying I grew up with — though I still love a big fish fry now and then. Don’t get me wrong!
Fortunately, I also get my love of all things spicy from my dad’s side of the family, and this blackened tilapia I threw together tonight after some fiddling with different possibilities is simple to make, a really fast meal, and scrumptious!
16 oz. tilapia, 4 fresh fillets (about 4 oz. each when cooked)*
1 3⁄4 tsp. packed light brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. to 1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (depending on desired spiciness—1.5 was pretty warm, but I love spicy food so that was perfect for me)
2 T. smoked paprika (I like McCormick’s organic)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Mix all ingredients except fish and olive oil in a small bowl and set aside.
Pat fillets of fish dry with a paper towel.
Sprinkle seasoning on the fillets of fish generously & coat evenly on both sides.
Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a large skillet on med-high heat.
Cook all fillets for about 3 1/2 minutes on the first side, then 3 minutes on the 2nd side — or until cooked through, opaque white and flaky.
Weight Watchers Info.: 4 SmartPoints on the Freestyle plan for a 4 oz. filet; 5 SmartPoints under the old plan.
*If you have frozen fillets, be sure to thaw and pat dry with a paper towel before you begin cooking.