Seasoned Tilapia with Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto

Seasoned Tilapia with Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto

Inspiration: I really love tilapia. I know that a lot of people don’t really love this kind of fish, but I like it because it has a mild flavor and a flaky texture, and I like it because it’s cheap. I’d love to eat halibut and crab and lobster several times a week, but I really just can’t afford that. So I do love tilapia. And I’m always looking for new ways to cook it that I can add to my rotation.

What we Loved: I was drawn to this recipe because it has layers of flavor. The fish is coated in a rub that gives it a sweet and smoky flavor, and then it’s topped with a yellow pepper cilantro pesto that layers in a fresh, garlicy vegetable flavor. I really enjoyed the contrast between the two sets of flavor on the fish, and I always think that a healthy portion of cilantro adds a great freshness to a dish, too. This is a really good, healthy recipe for fish when you’re looking for something that’s a bit more than just a seasoned and baked filet. I served this with hearts of palm and some homemade refried beans for a super healthy supper.

Helpful Hints: While I did enjoy this a lot, I thought that the rub for the fish was a touch on the sweet side. Even though I’m always tempted by main course recipes that combine sweet and savory, especially in the fall time when I want to combine apples with pork or make cinnamon pan sauces, I know that I just really dislike any sweet and savory combinations when it comes to my main dish. I’m not sure what it is, but I just can’t handle a fruit sauce on my chicken, pineapple on my ham, or a maple glaze on my fish. So next time, I would leave the brown sugar completely out of the rub. That being said, if you enjoy sweet and savory main courses, then you would probably like to keep the brown sugar included. Also, when making pesto, I never use the large amount of oil that a recipe calls for. I only drizzle in just enough so that it’s creamy, which saves on a lot of calories.

Seasoned Tilapia with Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto
Source: Ezra Pound Cake, originally from Bobby Flay

I cut the original rub recipe in half to serve two. I made the entire batch of pesto, and I froze the leftovers in an ice cube tray for later. I also adapted this recipe to be cooked inside, rather than to be grilled. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

For the Rub:
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
1/2 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chile de arbol powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Yellow Pepper Cilantro Pesto:
2 yellow bell peppers, roasated, peeled, and seeded
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

For the fish:
2 tilapia filets
Extra virgin olive oil
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Combine all of the rub ingredients in a bowl, and set aside.

2. Place the peppers, garlic, pine nuts, cilantro, and cheese in a food processor, and process until combined. Drizzle in as much olive oil as necessary to make the pesto as creamy as you’d like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Rub each filet with the seasoning mixture. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan, enough to lightly coat the bottom. Saute until the fish flakes easily with a fork, approximately 5 minutes per side.

4. Top each filet with some of the pesto, and garnish with cilantro leaves.

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