Tilapia is the fish chefs love to hate, mostly because it isn’t “fishy” enough. Consumers, on the other hand, love it for the very same reason. Its neutral taste means it’s great transition food for the fish hater. Thin and quite sensitive to the touch after cooked, it isn’t the most versatile fish in terms of texture and being able to hold its own. I’m personally a huge fan of tilapia because it lets me get my healthy fish fats without necessarily having to have a distinct fishy experience, like that offered by, say, salmon or tuna. When I want to take tilapia to the next level, I pair it with another fish, using the tilapia as the base. In this recipe, I spice things up a bit by stuffing tilapia with a disassembled homemade crab cake. And, make no mistake, this crab cake is no mayonnaise fest – it’s lighter and does more justice to the inherent deliciousness of crab. Meanwhile, the tilapia really holds it down in this recipe and you don’t lose sense of its purpose in lieu of other flavors. Enjoy!
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For the tilapia:
- 2 tilapia fillets
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the crab:
- 1 pound jumbo lump crab, pasteurized, drained and rinsed
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 celery stick, finely chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 long sweet green pepper, finely chopped
- 1/4 red cabbage, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons mashed avocado
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1/4 cup whole-wheat bread crumbs (or a gluten free version)
- 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons old bay seasoning
- 1 + 2 tablespoons olive oil
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut each filet in half, along the natural line to separate the thicker side of the fillet from the thinner side. Lightly grease a baking dish with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Place the thinner halves of the fillets in the dish, separated by at least inches. Cut down the middle of the thicker half fillets, starting 1 inch from the top and stopping one inch from the bottom. Place each of the thicker halves atop the each of the thinner halves and use your fingers to separate the split area of each thick fillet so that a pouch is formed to hold the stuffing. The thin half fillets act as a base and the thicker halves as side support. When cooked, the fillets cook to stick together. Season with salt and pepper and liberally with sweet paprika.
For the crab mix, in a pan over medium heat, add the shallot, scallions, red pepper, green pepper and cabbage along with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook until the shallots are transparent and cooked tender but not browned. Transfer the veggies to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients (only 2 tablespoons of olive oil).
Fold until all ingredients are evenly combined. Do not over mix. You want the crab to retain its chunky texture.
Stuff the tilapia nests with as much of the crab mixture as possible. There will inevitably be leftovers. I prepare makeshift crab cakes with them! Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes, or cooked through and tender (not dry!).
What a beautiful presentation! It speaks for itself. Enjoy with a squeeze of lemon.