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October 01, 2012

October Fish of the Month: U.S.-Farmed Tilapia

Your seafood choices can have a big impact on the health of our oceans and lakes—so make sure they’re positive ones! Every month, Shedd’s Right Bite team highlights a sustainable seafood item as our Fish of the Month. October’s pick is U.S.-farmed tilapia, and Chef Cleetus Friedman of City Provisions has a recipe for pan-seared tilapia with “Cleetus Heatus” peach salsa!

We called in the gregarious Chef Cleetus for a tasty tilapia recipe because we knew it would be delicious. Plus City Provisions, his Chicago-based delicatessen and catering company, focuses on supporting local farms and businesses. Wait, tilapia is local? You bet! Tilapia can be farmed in urban environments and all U.S.-farmed tilapia is on Shedd’s best choice list for sustainability.

Tilapia, a popular name for many species of freshwater African cichlids, was once an obscure fish to most American palates, but it has become a regular on many dinner tables. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consumed more than 425 million pounds of tilapia last year—more than four times the amount eaten a decade ago. The fish (nicknamed “aquatic chicken” for its versatile flavor) is hardy, can tolerate a range of environmental conditions and grows rapidly. All of these characteristics make it ripe for aquaculture. Yet, unfortunately, the majority of tilapia in the marketplace is imported into the United States from farms that struggle with pollution, disease and inadequate containment so that farmed fish can escape into the wild, with potentially harmful results to native species and habitats. When purchasing tilapia at a grocery store or restaurant, be sure to ask where it is from.

Hyperlocal tilapia farming in urban locations like Chicago, Denver, New York and Milwaukee employs a sustainable system called aquaponics. This creates a symbiotic relationship between plants and animals. The farmer grows the fish, the fish's wastes fertilize vegetables, and the vegetables provide the filtration to clean the water returning to the fish pond. This fish-farming method not only reduces environmental concerns with pollution and escaped fish—it is water-conservation-minded and operates with up to 90 percent less water than traditional aquaculture.

Test out Cleetus’s tilapia recipe or stop by City Provisions to meet Cleetus and his fantastic, knowledgeable staff in person!

FoTM_TilapiaPan seared tilapia with Cleetus Heatus peach salsa

Serves 2
2 U.S.-farmed tilapia fillets
6 yellow peaches
1 jalapeño
½ red onion, diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or oil blend if you can’t find sunflower oil)
Salt and pepper

Make the salsa:
1. Cut peaches in half. Remove pits.
2. Dice peaches, red onion, and jalapeño (with seeds).
3. Finely chop cilantro.
4. In a mixing bowl, add onions, lime juice and cilantro.
5. Salt and pepper to taste. Let sit in the refrigerator.

Sear the fish:
1. Heat sunflower oil in skillet.
2. Season fish with salt and pepper. Sear in the pan for 4 minutes on each side.

Plate the fish with a generous portion of salsa on top. Garnish with reserved cilantro.
Serve with a side of rice and some greens.

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Very nice and informative blog posting about tilapia fish. Tilapia fish is Awesome! I like this fish very much.

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