In spite of the unseasonably warm temperatures, we put up our Christmas tree. Strung the twinkly white lights and placed the ornaments with care. A charming addition to our living room. That is, until the little bugs started hopping off. I guess that’s what you get when your Christmas tree is a rosemary shrub brought in from the patio? We took it back outside and perched it atop the smoker for all to see. It’s got real character.

o Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum // wie treu sind deine Blätter

I can remember learning “O Tannenbaum” in German when I was in kindergarten. It’s been a favorite Christmas carol of mine ever since.

Our ‘tree’ is green and its leaves are treu [true], but finishing the stanza would prove false. The song goes on to say: Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit // Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit. [You're green not only in the summertime // No, also in winter when it snows.] It’s green in summer, but green it shall stay throughout the year. And there certainly won’t be any snow this winter!

So as the warm temperatures and sunny skies prevail, we bounce back and forth between winter comfort food and light summery meals. This bright dish sent us straight to the tropics. The only things missing were piña coladas with tiny umbrellas and possibly some steel drums.

I worked roughly from a Bon Appetit recipe — two minor alterations. Salsa: minus the red pepper. Fish: swap tilapia fillets for snapper.

Next time we’ll omit the egg and flour dips. I ran across another recipe in prepping for this one that suggested brushing the fillets with coconut milk and then dipping directly into the chopped macadamia nuts. Sounds to me like a wicked flavor combination with the mango-papaya salsa!

Macadamia nut crusted tilapia and mango-papaya salsa [serves 2]

Printable recipe

For the salsa:

1 small mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/4″ pieces

3/4 c papaya cut into 1/4″ pieces

1/4 c finely chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 small red onion, finely diced

1 T fresh lime juice

1 t olive oil

1 t rice vinegar

1/2 t finely chopped garlic

1/8 to 1/4 t cayenne pepper, depending on your taste

+ + +

For the fish:

1/4 c all purpose flour

1 large egg

1 c macadamia nuts

2 tilapia fillets

2 T olive oil

Combine all salsa ingredients in large bowl and stir to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. [This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.]

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place flour in shallow dish. Whisk eggs in small bowl to blend. Finely chop nuts with a knife, or place in a zipper-top bag and whack with a rolling pin. Transfer nuts to another shallow dish.

Sprinkle fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Coat fish with flour; shake off any excess. Dip fish into eggs, then macadamia nuts, coating completely. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Gently add fillets and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer fillets to large baking sheet. Bake fish until just opaque in center, about 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Divide salsa among plates, top with fish and serve.

Note: We had leftover Moroccan-spiced blood orange couscous with this and it was a very nice meal.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

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