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Almond Crusted Tilapia

It's pretty hard to search for an easy tilapia recipe and not find hundreds of variations on Parmesan crusted tilapia.  Instead of grated Parmesan and bread crumbs, I use crushed almonds for a nutty crust and garlic & ginger for the flavor.  Ditching the cheese makes it much more of a healthy weeknight dinner.  




Background 

As far as fish goes, tilapia is a pretty sturdy variety with a good flavor that is pretty easy to cook.  You can mildly overcook it without really noticing too much.  It also holds together really well and won't completely fall apart when you try to flip it over.

For the crust, I basically took advantage of the two side dishes I was already preparing, a wheatberry and almond salad and sauteed red kale and borrowed some of their ingredients.  This keeps things simple and ties all of the flavors of the dish together.

Preparing the Tilapia

Start by taking a handful of almonds and crushing them into a nice powder.  You can do this with a mortar-and-pestle, a mallet and a plastic bag or your food processor.  I'll then shake them in a wire colander to separate the big chunks from the finer crumbs.  With the crumbs, I mixed in a fair amount of garlic and ginger that I chopped extra of for the red kale.  Spread this mixture out on a large plate for breading.

Almond Crusted Tilapia going into a hot pan
Almond Crusted Tilapia going into a hot pan
Prepare a simple egg wash to dip the fish by lightly scrambling one eggs and adding a bit of water.  Give the fish a light touch of salt and pepper on the flesh, let it work in.  Next, dip the fish in the egg wash, press on the almond crumbs and set aside.


Cooking the Tilapia

This doesn't take long, so you can do this just before you're ready to serve.  Have the pan heated to medium high and pour in a little bit of oil.  Cook the fish for 4-5 minutes per side.  Remember, cook the presentation side first as it'll have the best brown and color.  Try to avoid having to flip back to this side.

Almond Crusted Tilapia after the first side has cooked
Almond Crusted Tilapia after the first side has cooked

Finishing with the Pan Sauce

After you cook the fish, you're going to have a good amount of chopped almond, garlic and ginger left in the pan that's bursting with flavor.  As soon as the fish comes out, I took some leftover stock from making the wheat berries and poured in about half a cup.  With a soft spatula, I worked up the tasty bits from the pan and started reducing it down to a nice sauce.  You can add a tablespoon of cold butter here to help thicken it.  Another nice addition is a splash of the white wine you may be serving.

This should only take about 5 minutes if the pan is still hot.  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the tilapia pieces to keep them warm while making the sauce....as I doubt you have restaurant grade heating lamps over your counter.

Once the sauce has reduced down, gently spoon some over and around the fish.

Reducing stock into a pan sauce
Reducing stock into a pan sauce
Another shot of the finished plate

Almond Crusted Tilapia, Wheat Berries and Red Kale
Almond Crusted Tilapia, Wheat Berries and Red Kale