I just typed this up for another blogger I follow, over at Learning How to Cook...Gluten Free! and thought that it might be a good idea to post this up here. It is a work in progress and I will have to update this again as I really should be in bed and not typing right now, but here it goes anyway:
Fish can be tricky, but there are a lot of ways to cook it--pan fried (once again till "flaky"), baked, battered and fried, raw in sushi/sashimi (only from a restaurant or sushi grade please...)
If you are just starting out on the world of fish, stick to the frozen pre-filleted packets, like your tillapia. If you are really short on time you can often just cook those babies in boiling water in the plastic packaging (look at the box for ideas) and season after it is out.
I tend to be pretty plain on fish, and just have some starch like rice or potatoes and some beans, peas, or other veggie, but it really doesn't stop there... I am just lazy. You can crumble it up and put it in chowder after you cook the fish, saute with some butter and capers and serve over pasta (look online for recipes).
I have a recipe for gluten free battered halibut on my blog that works well for any thick fish, but beware--it can be a mess to make. Messy but oh so tasty.
Now onto braver fare:
If you happen to be near a coastline you might want to hop down to a fish market some day to see what is there and talk to the people. Many places have someone who is willing to show you how to cut up fish, or they will do it for you for no charge.
If you are looking for fresh whole fish, look to see that the eyes are not sunken in and the skin/meat is not discolored. If you can see cuts of the fish, look to see that the flesh is firm and not mushy or pulling apart (that means that it is old).
I live in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, so I have to stick with fresh frozen food unless I want a case of food poisoning. I have learned to ask my meat market guy if they still have some fish frozen in the back instead of what they thaw and place out as "fresh" and normally he is willing to grab me some from the back so I know it is as fresh as possible (often times frozen at the docks, before it ever sees land). This works best with whole fish, but I often find Halibut (tasty and not fishy, but meaty) and Salmon (um... firm, fishier than Halibut, and available everywhere--Pacific is much better than Atlantic for taste and texture).
Oh boy... now that I have overwhelmed you I have one more thing. Eat fish from people who cook with it, or from restaurants that cook it in ways you like. Then either ask how they did it (if a friend) or look at the menu and jot down the main words to look up later online for recipes. The internet is a great place to learn about cooking and the restaurants will give you an idea of a few places to start.
Cheap and tasty fish:
--Catfish (depending on where you are, can be mushy sometimes, great deep fried)
--Sole (much like tillapia, a bit fishier)
--Tilapia/Cod (cheap and hard to mess up, but not impossible)
--Salmon (Pacific is all around better than Atlantic, but more expensive, flexible but good with teriyaki dishes or other sweet preparations)
--Halibut (tastes a lot like Tilapia, but firmer and a little more fishiness, good with savory flavors like dill)
--Trout (best cooked whole in a pan, or baked)
--Swordfish (very firm, steaklike)
--Tuna (called Ahi or yellowfin tuna, fishy taste but often used in sushi)
If you like shrimp, they are done when they turn completely pink (they start out greyish) and I highly suggest buying the pre-shelled frozen variety for new cooks... deveining shrimp is a pain in the rear.
Enough fishiness for now, please feel free to add in ideas in comments as I am sure that other people more near actual water can have more suggestions than land-locked me. I miss living near cold water oceans... the fish were so darn tasty (and crab, which the rest of my family loves and I am allergic to, is highly abundant)
On a completely different note: Sorry for the lack of updates, but I have been managing to buy a house and starting the garden while working and going to classes... and now will be moving during those activities. Posts will continue to be random... but I will have all new gardens to take a stab at, and a new kitchen to try out! Wish me luck! ... and any suggestions for a new home owner would also be appreciated!