Tilapia a la Provencale

I woke up the other morning with a sick feeling in my stomach.

I'm facing a lot of decisions in my life right now, decisions about where I want to go and what I want to do, and it's just this incredibly dreadful feeling, this responsibility for myself and my future. And I know I'm being illogical. I'm not even 18 yet, and the choices I make right now probably won't haunt me for the rest of my life. But I'm just not a very logical person.

Anyways, it took me most of the morning get the shaky, worried feeling out of my body. I ate a lovely breakfast. I cleaned. I took a shower that lasted about half an hour. (It was a glorious, glorious shower.) I tried to draw and read, things that usually calm me down. But I just couldn't. I couldn't focus.

So I made Tilapia au Provencal. There is something about the rhythm of cooking that is so comforting. As I pan fried the fish, chopped tomatoes and looked for olives in the wilderness that is my refrigerator, I felt my anxiety drift away like plumes of steam.

And you know what else? This tasted wonderful. It's a french recipe: Lightly panfried fish, that is then baked and tossed into a bright tomato sauce. At the risk of being morbid, I would like to request that my final meal have lots of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce cures all ills.

And then I went and had a beautiful day.

Tilapia a la Provencale
adapted from I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot

The beauty of this kind of recipe is that it leaves lots of room for improvisation. The original recipe suggested using salt cod, but this would be lovely with any white fish. Salmon would be interesting... I forgot the onion and instead added bok choy and spicy olives and peppers. It's your life. Do what you want.

3 tablespoons oil
3 1/2 ounces onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 pound 2 ounces tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Generous 1 cup black olives
2 tablespoons chopped parsely
1 pound 2 ounces tilapia filets

Preheat oven to 500 F.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, lightly cook fish, about one minute on each side, or until the fish begins to look less pink and more white. Remove from pan and place in a baking dish. Roast in oven for 5-7 minutes, until fish is cooked through. (It's difficult to explain doneness. Just trust yourself, also because most ovens run at slightly different temperatures, you may want to check fish sooner or later, depending on the fickleness of your oven.) Remove from oven. In the meantime, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in pan. Add the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Cook over low heat and stir occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add olives, parsley, season with pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Flake the cooked tilapia and add it to the pan. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, then serve.