I lived in the Tampa Bay area for over 15 years. My corporate office is in that neck of the woods. When I have the opportunity to visit for a couple of days, I like to try to get to the famous Columbia Restaurant where the food is fabulous, the service is spectacular, and the decor is authentic Cuban Courtyard. If you ever get the chance, be sure to visit the original haunt in Ybor City. On the outskirts or downtown Tampa, Ybor City was once known for it's cigar factories. Today, it's better known for it's colorful nightlife. Yet one tradition, the Columbia, still stands.
The Columbia's famous Cuban sandwich and the Original "1905"Salad™ are to die for. So is the chicken and yellow rice. My personal favorite is the Snapper “Alicante” :
Remove fish and most of the onions and peppers to a plate and keep warm under aluminum foil. Pour remaining sauce into sauce pan (or you can use the same saute pan). Bring to boil and reduce for about two minutes until sauce thickens.
Plate fish with onions, peppers and sauce. Top with chopped candied walnuts and fresh parsley. Suggestion: Serve with yellow rice
Not an endorsement of the restaurant and no product was supplied to blogger.
"It features the King of Gulf fish, Snapper, baked in a casserole with sweet Spanish onions, green peppers, a rich gravy, olive oil, fresh garlic, Sauterne wine and topped with sliced roasted almonds. Served with yellow rice garnished with fried eggplant and shrimp supreme." (Columbia Restaurant Menu).
I was so hungry for this dish today, but darn, I didn't have any Snapper... but I had Tilapia. I did not have any white California Sauterne wine... but I had a bottle of cheap red California Sangria in my refrigerator and a little brandy on hand.
Forget the eggplant and shrimp garnish. I didn't have that either, but I did have some Valencia rice and Annato, so I could make my "fake out" yellow rice.
On all the other ingredients - check - I was good to go!
Except for the almonds... so I used candied walnuts. Hey, that goes pretty darn good with the brandy, let me tell you.
Okay, so I guess my dish isn't anything like the other. My recipe is more of a "smothered" fish dish... I used my creative energy and came up with something that is definitely Tampa-inspired - and it is delicioso!
As a tribute, I am calling this dish "Tilapia Ybor.'
Makes 2 Servings:
2 4 ounce Tilapia Fillets
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour (for dredging)
2 teaspoons Coarse Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Paprika
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Spanish Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup green or red Bell Pepper, sliced into rings or thin sliced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Butter
For the Gravy:
1/4 cup red Sangria wine
1 tablespoon Brandy
1 cup All Natural Beef Broth (you can substitute Vegetable Broth)
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 teaspoons dried Oregano
Pinch of coarse Sea Salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
Butter Flavored Cooking Spray
Chopped Candied Walnuts (optional)
Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Note: I like to use my ceramic casserole dish to prepare this recipe.
Spray baking pan with cooking spray.
Dredge Tilapia in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika.
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a Saute pan.
Note: I'm sure the chefs would disagree, it doesn't matter to me if your pan has sloped sides or straight, as long as it cooks evenly In fact, this is more of a chicken frying pan that I am using. I love it for this purpose. Whatever works!
Add the fish dredged in seasoned flour. Saute for approximately one minute per side. Remove fish from pan to prepared baking dish.
Add onions and peppers. Cook for three to four minutes until the edges begin to slightly brown. Your pan should be at a high heat now, and with the remaining flour on the bottom, this "browning" should be easily accomplished.
Add garlic and butter. Cook for one more minute or until butter melts.
Add the brandy to the wine and pour over the onions, pepper, and garlic. Stir in beef broth. Add the olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper and combine.
Bring gravy to boil and reduce to simmer, about three or four minutes.
Pour gravy over the Tilapia. Bake for (trust me - you know I test all my recipes) 28 minutes.