Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dinner in Less than Twenty Minutes

We like cheap and easy when it comes to cooking without sacrificing taste. Who doesn’t? Anything that can give you all this becomes a culinary classic (a keeper!). Some nights you just don’t want to spend two hours making dinner.

The beauty of this recipe is that most of the work is prep, cooking takes less than ten minutes and it allows for dozens of variations so you’ll never get bored with it.

The original recipe was for chicken, but we experimented and made it with pork and then fish. To celebrate spring, we’ll go with the lighter version here.

The showcase of this dish requires exactly three ingredients: hummus, panko and tilapia filets. The method is so simple a child could do it: spread hummus over fish, coat in panko, heat oil in a pan and brown for approximately two and half minutes on each side. It is done!

For $20 you can probably feed four people.

You only need enough oil to cover the surface of the pan, we’re not deep frying. You may use your oil of choice – olive or extra virgin olive oil will be the healthier choice. The result will always be the same: a juicy interior and a crunchy exterior.

You can sprinkle some salt and pepper over fish before adding hummus, but most prepackaged hummus already have salt added – and your toppings should be taken into consideration regarding the salt content you are comfortable with.

You can season the panko with cayenne, garlic powder or dried herbs, if you wish. Can you substitute the panko with breadcrumbs? Absolutely, but the result will be less crunchy. It will still be pretty darn good.

Make sure your oil is hot, otherwise your fish will cook but the coating will fall off it. It will look messy, but it will cook to the right texture (only separately) and you can serve this disaster without anyone knowing you screwed up because it will become a breaded topping that tastes really good.

To finish off the dish you can do any number of things that will change it slightly and in ever more interesting ways.

Once you take the fish out of the pan, you can add a pat of butter and melt it, add herbs to heat through and cover the fish with it.

A squirt of lemon juice makes it tangy and refreshing.

The same can be done with capers, diced fresh tomatoes and chopped garlic. This step can be done in another minute or two.

If you prefer, you may add a tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt over the fish with chopped herbs (scallions, parsley or dill are good choices).

A modified pico de gallo salad over the fish, with red onion, tomatoes and avocado gives it a tropical feel. Tabouleh gives it a more Middle Eastern feel.

I have also topped my fish with chimichurri sauce.

Don’t think reserving some hummus and topping your fish with it as redundant but rather as daring and delicious.

A simple bean, pasta or tossed salad on the side completes this dish for the perfect dinner in less than twenty minutes. Alternatively, a bed of steamed spinach gives it a very elegant sophistication.

Once you’ve exhausted the hummus combinations, you can substitute with your favorite dip or sauce – pesto, roasted pepper, guacamole, baba ganoush.

It could not be easier or more delicious. Plus it is so good for you that you can splurge on dessert with no guilt.


Kali Amanda Browne writes the What’s Cooking? column, fiction, two blogs and a Twitter feed of great recipes for Weekend Cooks. Follow her projects at (Image: Grant Cochrane / 


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