Sonoran Tilapia

In our ongoing quest to try to cook healthy meals, we attempt to incorporate fish into our weekly routine on a semi-regular basis.  Note how I used the key words “attempt” and “semi-regular,” as opposed to “succeed” and “often.”  The problem is that I don’t really like fish — mostly because it tastes like fish (and don’t even get me started on how much I dislike salmon…)   So, when we do cook fish at home, the recipe usually involves a sauce of some sort (this is my favorite) and we almost always use a light, non-fishy fish like tilapia. Luckily, our local grocery store sells large bags of frozen tilapia fillets that are really easy to thaw and cook for a quick weeknight meal.  I found this particular recipe when I was looking for a new fish dish that met my culinary criteria (sauce, non-fishy, healthy-ish) and called for an Anaheim chile pepper, since we happened to have a few ripe ones in our garden.  Not only did this recipe meet these criteria for the most part, it also included TWO sauces — one for the fish while it cooked and another to spoon over the fish when it is done.  (If you’re not a fish wimp like me, you might actually enjoy the fish without the second sauce, which would save a little time and effort if you’re looking for a really quick meal.)


The ingredients for the fish include tilapia fillets, olive oil, Creole seasoning, cilantro, lime and salt & pepper.  The ingredients for the second sauce include butter, garlic, onion, an Anaheim chile pepper, tomatoes, white wine, chicken stock, black olives (we used kalamata), cumin, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce and salt & pepper.


Chop up the cilantro.


Then roughly chop the chile and onion, and mince the garlic.


Melt the butter and a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then stir in the chile, onion and garlic.


Cook, stirring often, until the onion softens and begins to brown — about 5 minutes.


In the meantime, grease a baking dish with olive oil, drizzle a little olive oil over the fish and season with Creole seasoning, salt and pepper.  We didn’t have any Creole seasoning, so we used Dan’s pre-mixed spice rub (recipe here.)  Also, you may have noticed that a few shrimp snuck into the baking dish.  Turns out we only had 2 tilapia fillets (we usually cook 3-4 at a time), so Dan decided to throw a few shrimp in as well.


Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the fish (and shrimp.)


Then sprinkle with cilantro.  Place the baking dish in the oven preheated to 350 degrees and cook until the inside of the fish turns white and flaky — about 20 minutes.


For the second sauce, add the tomatoes to the chile and onion, and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften — about 3 minutes.


Stir in the wine and simmer for about 1 minute.


Then add the chicken stock (we thawed some homemade stock)…


…olives and a little more cilantro…


…Worcestershire sauce and the spices (cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper.)   Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.


Halfway through the cooking process, Dan basted the fish with some of the sauce and juices accumulating in the bottom of the dish.


When the fish is done, spoon some of the sauce on top and serve.  We also garnished with some green onion for a little more flavor and crunch.  We served ours with pan-roasted fingerling potatoes.  The fish (and shrimp) tasted fresh and bright with the lime and cilantro flavors, and the second sauce added a rich and slightly spicy dimension to the dish.

Now, if anyone has a recipe that makes salmon taste like something other than salmon — please share!

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