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January 9, 2007 > Wrapped in prosciutto, tilapia takes on savory notes

Wrapped in prosciutto, tilapia takes on savory notes

By J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Writer

Whitefish is such an underappreciated ingredient.

Its ability to mate so well with so many diverse flavors _ never mind the speed and ease with which it can be prepared _ make it a natural for the weeknight kitchen.

For the minimalist, there is the simple drizzle of olive oil with a shake or two of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Or liven it up with a handful of chopped fresh herbs. Either way, the natural flavors of the fish will shine.

If fried is more your thing, but you'd rather skip the mess and fuss of oil, slather the fillets with a blend of equal parts mayonnaise and mustard, then dredge them through breadcrumbs and bake until crisp and flaky.

As for variety of whitefish, I've never been all that picky. Whatever is fresh _ generally haddock and cod _ works fine. Both are inexpensive, readily available and score low on mercury concerns.

But recently I've become enamored with tilapia, which has become one of the darlings of the eco-seafood movement. In addition to being low in mercury, tilapia usually is farmed in environmentally friendly (or at least friendlier) ways.

And it doesn't hurt that it tastes great and has a pleasantly firm texture.

For this recipe, I wanted something fast enough for a weeknight dinner, yet impressive enough for guests. And while I wanted assertive flavors, I didn't want to lose the natural tastes and texture of the fish.

Rolling the fillets in thinly sliced prosciutto was the answer. The oven-crisped prosciutto (similar to bacon, but so much better) provides a nice contrast to the fish.

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PROSCIUTTO-BAKED TILAPIA

(Start to finish: 35 minutes, 10 minutes active)

Olive oil cooking spray

8 slices prosciutto

4 tilapia fillets (about 4 to 5 ounces each)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 roasted red peppers from the jar, drained, patted dry and finely diced

4 toothpicks

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Arrange four slices of prosciutto evenly spaced on the baking sheet. Place a second slice over each of the first four. Set one tilapia fillet over pair of prosciutto slices.

Season the fish with salt and pepper, then drizzle each with about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Spoon a quarter of the diced red pepper over each fillet, using the back of the spoon to spread it evenly.

Starting at one end of each fillet, carefully roll it up, holding the prosciutto so that it wraps around the outside of the fish. Poke a toothpick through the center of each roll to help it hold together.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the flesh feels firm and flakes easily.

Makes 4 servings.

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