I was going to write about how comfort food for me is not cream laden, starch based dish. About how I would be disappointed during weekend lunches when my mom would bring out a pot of fish curry yet when I moved out to my dorm it was those memories that comforted me during cold, dark and lonely weekday nights. And one of the few things that connected me to my childhood as a married woman cooking for her own family. But I realized I’ve written all of that before. And as touching as it is, I can’t dwell on it. Not with all that’s going on. I am sick of the vitriol being spewed from my screen. From fellow commuters. From people I’ve shared a hometown with for years. But I’m emboldened by the acts of good among all the recent backlash against my community. The little Texan boy that donated his savings to a mosque in his neighborhood that was vandalized. Brandon of HONY, who appeared on Fareed Zakaria, pleading the case of the Syrian refugees. Justin Trudeau and the choir that welcomed refugees with a rendition of Tala Al Badru Alayna – the song that the people of Medina sang to receive the Prophet Muhammad and his followers when they left Mecca due to persecution.Scapegoating, racism, xenophobia – these are nothing new to mankind. But social media is. So I ask you, during these historic times, will we find ourselves as complacent as the citizens of the world during WWII? Will we let the negative news saturate our feeds? Or will we use the platforms we’ve been given to help our neighbors, speak the truth and contribute to the forces of good?
- 2 tilapia filets (about 3/4 pound total), cut widthwise into 1/2 in to 3/4 in pieces*
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp light olive oil
- pinch anise seeds (optional)**
- 1/2 large onion (or 1 medium one), sliced
- 1 Roma tomato, sliced into half inch slices
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno, tip cut off and sliced down the middle
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp salt
- dash cayenne pepper
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, with the tail on
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Season tilapia with turmeric and salt – rub to coat the fish with the spices.
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a large wok or fry pan with high sides. Lightly fry the fish about 2 minutes on each side to get a nice golden brown crust on them. I like to use tongs for this. Do this in two batches. Set aside browned fish on a plate or bowl.
- In the same oil, add the anise seeds and onion and cook until onions are translucent – about 4 minutes. Next add tomato, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine then add 1/2 cup of water to allow the spices to cook down. When the water is almost fully evaporated, add shrimp and stir with the vegetable and spice mixture. Allow to cook for 1 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup more water, the tilapia and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, put the lid on and the heat low and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.***
- Meanwhile chop cilantro. When the shrimp and tilapia are cooked through and the broth looks like a broth (homogenous in appearance, not like water with bits floating in it), then turn off the heat. Add the cilantro and taste for seasoning.
*Cook’s note: you can substitute about 2-2 1/2 pounds of bone-in, gutted and de-scaled fish that have been cut into thirds (e.g. porgy, whiting, buffalo). You can skip the shrimp in that case. We’re looking for flavor here (bones of the fish or tails of the shrimp).
**You ever notice that the French use Pernod (anise liqueur) to bouillabaisse (fish stew) and Italians add fennel to cioppino (fish stew). There’s just something about the combination of anise flavor with fish that just works!
***I know most recipes warn of overcooking shrimp but my personal taste is – I like it with a bit of a bite to it!