Tilapia Cakes & Ratatouille

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lots of my so-dubbed "Meal Planning" consists of me picking foods I want to eat out of thin air and finding recipes that flush them out into real meals. I wanted fish, I wanted burgers, I wanted roasted eggplant. After consulting some Inspiration resources, I ended up with fresh fish cakes and a quick(er) ratatouille.

That introduction aside, I cannot truthfully tell you that this dinner was quick. Ratatouille requires dicing of multiple vegetables to then be slowly cooked together. Worth the wait? Absolutely. But this isn't for a Tuesday, necessarily. Another truth I cannot tell? That these patties were inspired by my beloved Jerusalem. The very basic idea of Fresh Fish Chopped And Formed Into Patties is the same. Ottolenghi's fish cakes are much fancier - cod with a bevy of spices.

My fish cakes were tilapia-based and included capers, chives, egg, regular old store bought breadcrumbs, garlic, cumin, and paprika. The hardest (and most time consuming) part of this was actually breaking down the fish into small little pieces, but it also ensured I removed any tiny fish bones before making the patties! All in all, painstaking, but a win.

While Ottolenghi suggests serving the cakes in a tomato sauce, I chose to heighten the tomato flavors in the ratatouille. I started with very fresh grape tomatoes, halved and roasted them tossed with olive oil and S&P. Roasting them deepens and enriches the tomato flavor a bit before adding them to the rest of the veggies.

Real Ratatouille requires you roast each vegetable component separately and then mix them all together at the very end. This version, roughly from Real Simple, is, fittingly, simpler. All the traditional veggies are the same - eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, onion - but you add them one by one into the pot depending on required cook time. As you may be able to see in the snap below, I also had a lone stalk of celery that was approaching Mush Status, so that I threw in as well.

While the vegetables stewed together, I cooked the fish cakes in a cast iron pan.

The crunchy crust achieved on the outside was one of the best parts of the dish. Ratatouille is soft, the interior of the cakes was soft, so it was nice to have the textural crispiness on the outside.

I plated both with a wedge of lemon for extra zing. Pretty and delicious, if I do say so myself! I love the marriage of all the rich, sweet vegetable flavors with the tangy, semi-spicy fish cakes. I'm excited to try different variations - different fishes and different 'fill ins'. Do you have any favorites or go-tos you'd like to share?

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You can be sweet or spicy, but no sour grapes.

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