Tilapia (various species and hybrids of the genus Tilapia) originated from Mediterranean and African countries and has been successfully cultured throughout the world in temperate to tropical regions. Within the last few years, production of tilapia (pronounced "tuh-laa-pee-ah") in the United States has exceeded freshwater trout. Tilapia is a hardy fish that will thrive in outdoor ponds or high-tech tank systems using several different filter types to cleanse and recycle water. The fish is fed high-quality, grain-based pellets to produce a mild flavored fillet. Florida has a wild fishery of tilapia found in Central Florida lakes and Tampa Bay's brackish water estuary that are sold in regional seafood retail shops as fresh, gutted fish.
Similar in appearance to bream, tilapia are produced with a wide range of skin colors, black to dark blue to brilliant golden red. Much of the tilapia production in the United States is sold to Asian buyers as a live product, which is generally harvested at 1 to 1 1/2 pounds.
Moderate texture, white meat with mild flavor. Extra lean fish.
Snapper, Tilefish, Striped Bass.
HOW MUCH TO BUY
• Whole or drawn fish: 3/4 to 1 pound per serving.
• Dressed or cleaned fish: 1/2 pound per serving.
• Fillets or steaks: 1/4 to 1/3 pound per serving.
BUYING, STORAGE AND HANDLING
• Remember to purchase seafood last and keep it cold during the trip home.
• Processed tilapia is available (fresh or frozen) as gutted, headed and gutted, skin-on fillets and skinless, boneless fillets.
• A distinctive feature of tilapia's palm-shaped, boneless fillets is a V-cut made in the meaty part of the fillet to remove a series of small pin bones. Fillets are sold in ranges that are 3-5 ounces and 6-8 ounces.
Fresh whole fish should have:
-- A shiny surface with tightly adhering scales.
-- Gills that are deep red or pink, free of slime, mucus and off-odor.
-- Clean shiny belly cavity with no cuts or protruding bones.
-- A mild aroma, similar to the ocean.
Fresh steaks, fillets and loins should have:
-- A translucent look.
-- Flesh that is firm and not separating.
-- A mild odor, similar to the ocean.
-- No discoloration.
-- Packaging that keeps them from being bent in an unnatural position
• Keep raw and cooked seafood separate to prevent bacterial cross-contamination.
• After handling raw seafood thoroughly wash knives, cutting surfaces, sponges and your hands with hot soapy water.
• Always marinate seafood in the refrigerator.
• Discard marinade; it contains raw juices which may harbor bacteria.
• When marinade is needed for basting reserve a portion before adding raw seafood.
• Tilapia's mild flavor and medium to fine-grained flake lends itself well to all types of cooking: fried, broiled, grilled and blackened. Tilapia cooks quickly; when the flesh turns opaque white, it is ready to be served.
• The general rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness, at the thickest part of the fillet or steak, at 400-450 degrees F.
• If fish is cooked in parchment, foil or a sauce, add 5 minutes to the total cooking time.
• Fillets less than 1/2 inch thick do not need to be turned during cooking.
• Fish cooks quickly. Do not overcook.
• Fish is done when the flesh becomes opaque and flakes easily when tested with a fork.
• Poaching, steaming, baking, broiling, sautéing, microwaving are excellent low-fat cooking methods, if you do not add high fat ingredients.
• Marinate in your favorite salad dressing prior to cooking.
• Broil, bake, steam or microwave, then cube and add to pasta or salad greens for a delicious salad.
• Broil or grill with lime-butter and seasoned salt.
• Oil the grill to prevent fish from sticking.
• Bake whole fish with a crab or shrimp stuffing.
• Add leftover fish in broken pieces to salads, soups or sauces.
Nutritional values for approximately 4 ounces (114 grams) of raw, edible portions
• Calories 100
• Calories From Fat 25
• Total Fat 2.5 g
• Saturated Fat 0.5 g
• Cholesterol 55 mg
• Sodium 60 mg
• Total Carbohydrates 1 g
• Protein 21 g
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services www.fl-seafood.com