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FISH FRIDAY! Tilapia with Lemon-Basil Sauce

October 29, 2010

When I cook fish, I treat it very simply. No marinades, no fancy rubs, no intricate sauces. I want to allow the natural flavor of the fish to come through and then just to enhance it slightly – like I have here with some lemon juice and fresh basil.

The key with fish is to get the best kind you can. I have tilapia here, which is a really mild fish that doesn’t have much flavor, but tastes great because of the cooking technique and supporting players. If snapper is good the day you go to the market, get that. If it’s halibut, get that. The idea is, get the freshest fish they have that day and let the natural flavors come through.

The fish is cut into small pieces and then pan seared to a nice golden brown. It is incredibly flaky and juicy. The lemon basil sauce gives the fish some acidity and lusciousness that this mild fish really needs. The fresh basil gives the whole dish some pop and is a great herb to use. Parsely, chives, or cilantro could be substituted readily.

Pan Seared Tilapia with Lemon Basil Sauce (serves 4)

(Recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)

4 filets of tilapia (about 1 pound), or the freshest fish you have available at the market

2 T butter

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

6-7 leaves of basil, cut into chiffonade or sliced

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Take the tilapia filets and cut them down the middle, so you have two big “fish sticks”. Cut each fish stick into 3 pieces. So you should have 6 pieces per filet. Season these with salt and pepper.

Get a nonstick 10 inch fry pan set over medium high heat. Add 1 T of butter and 1/2 T of olive oil to the pan and let heat up. Once the butter starts foaming, add the tilapia pieces, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, about 6 at a time. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on one side until nice and golden brown (like the picture below). Flip over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Remove the fish to a plate and continue cooking the rest of the fish.

Once all the fish is cooked, add the lemon juice into the pan. Then add the butter. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. At the very end, add the basil leaves to the sauce and stir to infuse the flavor. Pour over the tilapia and serve.


This is a great fish recipe to have in your arsenal! What do you all think?





12 Comments leave one →
  1. Ray permalink
    October 29, 2010 12:54 PM

    Vivek, I’m glad I followed the FB link here. This looks excellent. I will definitely try the Vivek Surti way and let you know how it goes.

    Keep rockin’


    • October 29, 2010 1:00 PM

      Mr Walsh!

      Always a pleasure to hear from you. Hope all is well!

  2. October 29, 2010 1:08 PM

    looks tasty & healthy! a double wammie!


  3. Atul Ratanji permalink
    October 29, 2010 5:44 PM

    Vivek love to have you over at my place and put you to work with all the good food you make .love this Receipe.

    • October 29, 2010 5:55 PM

      We can put auntie and Dipal to work. Me, you, and Neil can have some Opus One. I’m trying to make a trip to Houston early next year, so hopefully I can finally meet you then. All the best!

  4. Rania permalink
    October 29, 2010 6:54 PM

    This. is. heaven!!!!! I can’t wait to try this, Vivek. It looks absolutely amazing!!

  5. October 31, 2010 5:39 PM

    Holy Crap, that dish looks great! If anyone out there claims they don’t like fish, all they have to do is look at this blog post and they will be fish lovers.

  6. Shama permalink
    November 19, 2010 5:13 PM

    This is such an amazing recipe… so easy, so simple yet so rich!! My husband absolutely
    LOVED this dish! iv’e made it a few times already, and its always a hit!
    Now were attempting to try your thanksgiving turkey recipe.. will post the results after we make it!

    Thanks Vivek

    • November 19, 2010 9:33 PM

      Glad you are enjoying it! Please let me know how you like the dressing and thanks for reading! Help spread the word!

  7. Erika permalink
    July 25, 2011 5:56 PM

    Did this with fresh fish caught and fileted by my dad and fresh lemon basil from my own garden. Super tasty and cost me virtually nothing!



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