Tilapia is a fantastic fish. It’s very mild, easy to prepare, and tastes great. It’s also fairly inexpensive. I tend to keep an eye out for it to go on sale at the grocery store. Lately, it’s been on sale a lot, so I thought I’d share how I’ve made it the past three times we’ve had it.
1. Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda
I’ve prepared tilapia several ways, but this recipe called Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda by Giada De Laurentiis is my favorite. It’s very simple, yet tastes fancy and flavorful. The fish is just pan-fried in a little olive oil for a few minutes on each side and then topped with this fantastic sauce made with butter, anchovies, garlic, orange juice, and basil (and a few other ingredients). Alright, I just typed that sentence and realized that the ingredients listed out like that look sort of improbable, and worse, a little disgusting. But trust me, the sauce is really, really good. If you’re anchovy-phobic, you could even make this sauce without the anchovies and just add some salt instead. The sauce can be made a day ahead of time (which I did). We ate the tilapia with two sweet potatoes that we cooked in the microwave, so the whole meal was on the table in about 10 minutes. You can’t beat that given how great everything tasted.
2. Tilapia with Avocado Sour Cream Sauce
I invented this recipe one night when we had a little leftover guacamole as well as a couple of tilapia fillets that needed eating.
2 tilapia fillets
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 – 2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
salt and pepper
Rinse and dry the fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add fillets and cook until opaque — about 3 minutes on each side.
For the sauce, combine the avocado, sour cream, lime juice, salt and pepper. You could use garlic salt, if you’d like. Mash until smooth or put in a food processor or blender. Add milk and blend until mixture is the consistency you desire. I made our sauce slightly runny. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired. Pour sauce on top of cooked fish and serve immediately. If you have cilantro, that would make a yummy topping.
I don’t have a photo for this because we were really hungry and I forgot to take one. But after he ate it, Mark declared, “That was the best fish you’ve ever made.” Well, I don’t know about that, but I’ll take the compliment.
3. Baked Tilapia with Stuffing
From the cookbook, My Mama Made Deez…or did she?, published by The Maimonides Society of Gainesville
My friend Jon gave me this recipe when I told him how much I like tilapia. Jon’s mom made it for a family gathering at the beach a few years ago, and Jon said that at the time he thought, “Wow, an easy and tasty dish you can make without a lot of work for a crowd. I’m sold.” Though I didn’t make this tilapia for a crowd, I’m definitely sold on the recipe too.
1 1/2 – 2 lbs tilapia
2 cups prepared seasoned stuffing mix
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped pecans
salt and pepper
Rinse and dry the fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in a greased baking dish. Top with lemon juice (Jon says he adds more than just the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice called for in the recipe). Prepare stuffing according to directions on the package. I added celery salt and garlic salt to add extra flavor to the stuffing. Add the butter to the stuffing and mix in to melt, then add the chopped pecans and stir to combine. We didn’t have any pecans, so I added chopped pistachios and they tasted great. Put the stuffing mixture on top of the fish and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes (until the fish flakes easily with a fork).
I only wanted to make two tilapia filets (Charlie definitely does not eat tilapia) which is substantially less than the 1.5 – 2 lbs called for in the recipe, so I adjusted the amounts of everything and it turned out great. We ate ours with just a simple salad. I think you could also prepare this dish using chicken breasts instead of tilapia. And, I must say that I loved eating stuffing in April (since I really only ever eat stuffing at Thanksgiving). In fact, once I made the stuffing, I was tempted to just skip the fish and eat the stuffing all by itself as a meal.
I usually like to tally how much a recipe cost me to prepare. But I accidentally tossed out the receipts so I don’t have that information. I do, however, know how much the tilapia itself cost for all three dishes:
tilapia: $8.54 (six fillets at $3.99/lb)
price per filet: $1.42
None of the three recipes I made above use expensive ingredients, so I’m willing to bet that each of these recipes prepared costs less than $2 a serving.