We all remember the frozen fish sticks of our childhood, which made for fun finger food for us and an easy meal for mom. Our tastes become a little more discriminating as we grow up and those same fishy frozen sticks just don’t seem to taste quite as good anymore. The good news is that homemade fish sticks using fresh sustainable fish are easy to make and are a great busy weeknight dinner.
Tilapia is a mild white fish that is sturdy enough to cut into strips for fresh, homemade fish sticks and it is readily available year-round in most local markets. U.S. farmed tilapia is a Best Choice on the Seafood Watch Guide, with tilapia farmed in Central or South America being a Good Alternative. Tilapia farmed in China or Taiwan is on the Avoid list due to farm tanks being environmentally unfriendly and concerns of pollution.
Take advantage of the weekly specials this week at Cosentino’s for tilapia at $3.29 per pound or check out Race Street Fish Market for the freshest fish in town. For the complete Week 21 Meal Plan, go to “Week 21 Easy Meals Plan & Grocery List.”
From this week’s groceries you will need:
(Note: these weekly meals are planned for one person but are easily adjusted for more.)
1/4 pound dry spaghetti
1/2 pound tilapia filets (on special this week at Cosentino’s)
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small zucchini
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional – this will make this dish a little spicy)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small jar marinara sauce
Note: For the complete Week 21 Grocery List, go to Week 21 Easy Meals Plan & Grocery List.
• Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
• Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
• Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and set the timer for the appropriate number of minutes according to the package directions. When cooked, drain spaghetti well in a colander. Set aside.
• While the spaghetti is cooking, pour the buttermilk into a large bowl.
• Cut the tilapia into strips, each about 3 inches long and 1/2-inch thick. (This does not have to be perfect but try to cut into pieces all as close in size as possible for even cooking.) Place the fish strips in the buttermilk, stir to coat and let stand for about 15 minutes.
• In a medium bowl, stir together the parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.
• Doing one fish strip at a time, remove it from the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off, and coat the fish strip well on all sides in the parmesan/breadcrumb mixture. Press with your fingers to help the mixture adhere to the fish. Place each coated fish stick on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some room in between each.
• After coating all fish sticks and placing on the baking sheet, drizzle a little olive oil over all and bake in the preheated oven for about 14 minutes until crispy and golden brown.
• While the fish sticks are baking, trim off and discard the stem end of the zucchini and thinly slice it.
• Finely grate the zest (yellow part of the peel) of the lemon. Cut the lemon in half.
• Peel and mince the garlic clove.
• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering hot, add the zucchini slices and sauté until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
• Add the minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, if using, and sauté another minute.
• Add the dry sherry. Squeeze in the juice (minus any seeds) of the lemon halves. Stir up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan and cook for another minute.
• Add the cooked, drained spaghetti to the skillet along with the grated lemon zest. Toss the pasta well to coat with the liquid and zucchini. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Toss well and remove from heat.
• Pour about 1/2 cup of marinara into a small bowl and heat for 1 minute in the microwave.
• The fish sticks should be done right about now. Remove from the oven and serve with the heated marinara sauce for dipping alongside the Lemon Zucchini Spaghetti.
If you have leftover fish sticks, these make a delicious fish sandwich or fish taco for lunch.
Go to Margie’s Easy Meals, “Week 21 Easy Meals Plan & Grocery List,” for Day 2’s easy meal, London Broil, Roasted Cauliflower & Heirloom Tomato Salad. To receive e-mail alerts for new articles from the San Jose Easy Meals Examiner, click on the Subscribe button above.