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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mediterranean Tilapia With Couscous

John Spaulding


Tilapia could be considered the chicken of the sea, in that it is mild and versatile enough to be paired with a variety of flavors. This recipe comes from John McPherson, the self-taught chef and co-owner of the Foster Harris House, a bed and breakfast in Washington, Va. It's one of 80 compiled in his first cookbook featuring B&B favorites as well as the foods McPherson and his wife, Diane, like to make with their friends in Rappahannock County.

Here, McPherson gives us a dish that is quick and easy yet good enough to serve weeknight guests. Capers, olives, lemon juice and white wine lend complexity while the couscous gets a complementary boost from the wine and lemon juice, plus sweetness from almonds and dried cranberries.

He likes to serve the dish with a Virginia Seyval Blanc or an unoaked Chardonnay from Puglia, Italy.

To order the cookbook, go to .



1 medium shallot
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Israeli (pearled) couscous
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme (1 to 2 tablespoons)
Juice from 1/4 lemon (1/2 teaspoon)
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 to 2 pounds tilapia fillets (if partially frozen, add 3 to 4 minutes' cooking time)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Juice from 1/2 medium lemon (1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
Chives, for garnish (optional)


For the couscous: Mince the shallot to yield at least 1 tablespoon.

Heat the butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until the foam subsides. Add the shallot and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, until it becomes translucent.

Add the couscous and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring to make sure it is evenly coated.

Add the wine and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring, until almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Add the broth, cranberries and thyme; mix well. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed (start checking after 12 minutes, and stir occasionally). Remove from the heat, then add the almonds. Squeeze in the lemon juice; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm.

While couscous is cooking, prepare the fish: Cut each fillet lengthwise in half, then pat dry with paper towels and season lightly all over with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter with the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, until the foam subsides.

Working in 2 batches (to keep from crowding the skillet), add the fish and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn over and cook for 3 minutes; the fish should be just cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil; repeat with the remaining fish.

Wipe out the skillet, then heat the remaining butter; reduce the heat to medium. Add the olives and capers. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the wine, stirring to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

To serve, divide the couscous among individual plates. Top each portion with equal amounts of tilapia; spoon some of the pan sauce over the top. If desired, snip some chives on top.

Rating *****[1]


From the "Foster Harris House Cookbook," by John MacPherson (One Tree Island, 2008).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Nutritional Facts
Calories per serving: 705
% Daily Values*
Total Fat: 32g 49%
Saturated Fat: 12g 60%
Cholesterol: 148mg 49%
Sodium: 796mg 33%
Total Carbohydrates: 49g 16%
Dietary Fiber: 4g 16%
Sugar: 11g
Protein: 51g

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