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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, May 23

Gapers Block

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When it's 88 degrees F outside and 91 degrees inside, I barely feel interested in eating, let alone cooking. I certainly didn't feel like cooking yesterday. But the rumble in my belly let me know I had to eat. A salad sounded good, but I wanted something a little more substantial.

And while grumbling and groaning about how hot it was, a suggestion was made to cook fish in the microwave. I was doubtful. The idea of cooking anything in the microwave makes me squeamish. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer food cooked with heat.

But I did a little bit of research online and decided that I would give it a whirl. Based on my quick and basic research, I decided that a dinner of tilapia, potato and a cold salad seemed like a great idea. And it was quick, and it was easy, and I didn't have to "cook" anything. And a bit surprisingly, it was actually tasty. Tasty enough that I thought I'd share, and tasty enough that I'll do it again.

Microwaved "Baked" Potato
1 Russet potato (or other baking potato)
1 paper towel

Scrub all dirt off the potato and remove any eyes. Using either a knife or a fork, stab the potato in several places to vent the steam. Wrap the potato in a paper towel and run it under water to saturate the paper towel. Place it in the center of the microwave and cook it on high for two minutes. Test it with a fork to determine if it's done. If not, turn the potato over and microwave for another two minutes. Repeat in one-minute increments until the potato is soft through to the center.

Microwaved Tilapia
3/4 pound of tilapia (or other white fish) fillets
1 clove of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of olive oil
sprinkle of salt and pepper
1/4 of a lemon with seeds removed
1 sprig of thyme per fillet, or 1 teaspoon of chopped basil, or 1 teaspoon of chopped tarragon

Place the tilapia fillets in the center of a glass casserole dish. Sprinkle the garlic over the fillets. Drizzle each fillet with a thin stream of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Flip the fish over and drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs over the fish and give it a squeeze the lemon. Cover the dish with parchment paper or an overturned plate, and place it in the middle of the microwave. If the fish is frozen, set it on high defrost for 4 minutes. Turn the fish over halfway through. Defrost in minute increments until the fish is defrosted. Cook on high for 2 minutes. Flip the fish over and cook for 2 minutes more. The fish should be white on the outside and opaque in the center. Test the center of the thickest portion for doneness. If the fish is close to finished, but not quite, cook a little longer, in 45-second increments.

Simple Summer Salad with Vinaigrette
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar

1/4 pound of mixed greens
1 small carrot
1 very small cucumber or part of a larger one
Handful of cherry tomatoes, or one small tomato cut in cubes

Either mince the garlic or run it through a garlic press and put it into a glass, wood or ceramic serving bowl — metal may react to the vinegar. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and several pinches of fresh-ground pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon if you don't have a grinder). Use the back of a sturdy spoon to mix the garlic with the salt and pepper until it becomes a paste. (This step creates a reaction which removes the bitter flavor from the garlic, so for the sake of love, don't skip it!) Add the mustard, oil and vinegar and stir rapidly with your spoon. Add your carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes now and coat with the dressing. Rinse your greens, shake off the excess water, and put in the bowl. Using freshly washed hands, toss the salad until everything is coated evenly. Adding the smaller ingredients first helps to distribute the dressing and should keep the chunks from sinking to the bottom of the bowl.

The entire dinner, including preparation, took me about 20 minutes. They were a hot and sticky 20 minutes, but eating the simple dinner made me forget about being hot and sticky for a little bit. And with a light dinner in my belly I was less cranky and better able to handle the hot evening that awaited me.

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