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Tilapia Topped with Tangelo Salsa Served over Black Beans & Corn Cakes

Shortly after moving to my small town, I thought of opening up a bistro. One night, I lay awake creating a menu. While I never did open the bistro, I kept the menu. And one of the items offered on it was the beginnings of this dish. I tweaked it a little and came up with a recipe full of layered flavors and textures.

While there are several parts to this recipe, they’re easy. Just follow them in the order written. Also, this is a great way to share kitchen duties: one person can make the corn cake batter while another prepares the salsa or cuts the vegetables for the beans. But if you don’t have an extra set of hands, you'll find substitutions and helpful hints in the Don’t Freak Out! section.

This serves four.

Corn Cakes

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

¼ cup fine ground cornmeal

¼ cup coarse ground cornmeal

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 TBS sugar

3 TBS grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil

1-1/2 cups milk

3 eggs

Grapeseed, canola or vegetable oil for cooking

In a small bowl, add the dry ingredients and set aside.

Separate the eggs. Add the yolks to a large bowl. Whisk in the oil and milk and set aside.

Add the whites to a large bowl. With a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff.

Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture with a spatula, being careful not to overmix. Add one-third of the beaten egg whites into the batter and stir gently to lighten the batter. Add another third of the egg whites to the batter and fold it in gently with a spatula. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter. The batter should be light yellow and airy. It’s fine if the egg white is not entirely incorporated.

Cover the batter with cling film and refrigerate for ½ hour.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a large non-stick skillet and heat on medium. I like to make silver dollar-sized cakes, so I use a ¼ cup ladle for the batter but make the cakes as large or as small as you like. Ladle the batter into the pan. Cook for one minute or until bubbles start to appear on the cakes. Carefully flip the cakes over and cook for an additional 30 seconds or until the bottom is golden brown.

Because you’ll have to cook the cakes in batches, keep them warm on a plate under a warm, damp (but not wet) lint-free kitchen towel or place on a pan in a toaster oven or oven set to the lowest setting.

Depending on the size of the corn cakes you make, you may have batter left over. Store unused batter, covered in the refrigerator for up to two days. Or make the corn cakes all at once and store in a plastic zip-top bag in the freezer for up to three months.

Black Beans

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

1 small red bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 TBS olive oil

15 oz can of organic black beans (do not drain)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 TBS red wine vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste

Heat a skillet on medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion and bell pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the black beans and their juice. Stir in the spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drop the heat to low. Stirring occasionally, cook for 5 minutes or until the beans absorb most of the juice. Remove from the heat, stir in the red wine vinegar, and taste for salt and pepper.

Tangelo Salsa

1 Minneola tangelo, washed well

½ small onion, peeled and thinly sliced

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce

¼ tsp agave nectar

½ TBS red wine vinegar

1 TBS olive oil

Pinch of dried oregano

Salt & pepper to taste

1 TBS fresh chopped parsley

Zest the tangelo and set the zest aside.

Peel the tangelo, separate into segments, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. In a small bowl, add the tangelo and onions.

In another small bowl, add the zest, mustard, Sriracha, agave nectar, and red wine vinegar. Whisk together and slowly add in the olive oil. Add the oregano, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the parsley.

Pour the dressing over the tangelo and onions. Gently stir in the dressing and set aside. As the salsa sits, the tangelo will release its juices.


4 tilapia filets

Garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

2 – 3 TBS unsalted butter

2 – 3 TBS olive oil

Rinse the tilapia and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle each side of the filets with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Heat a large skillet on medium. You will probably have to sauté the fish in two batches. Add half of the oil and butter to the hot pan. Gently place the fish in the pan. Cook for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully flip the fish over and cook for 2 – 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove the fish.

Assemble the dish:

Place three corn cakes on each plate. Divide the black beans between all four plates (spread on the corn cakes). Place one fish filet on top of the beans. Divide the tangelo salsa between all four plates. Drizzle any juice from the salsa over the food. Serve immediately.

Don’t Freak Out!

1) I like using Minneola tangelos in this salsa because they’re sweet, easy to peel, rarely mealy, and don’t have any seeds. But use what you like: clementines, oranges, or even grapefruit.

2) A note on cornmeal. I like adding coarse ground cornmeal to corn cakes and cornbread for extra texture. Rather than buying two grinds of cornmeal, I save a little money and buy one bag of organic polenta. I grind about a third of it in my high-speed blender. I store the fine and coarse ground cornmeal in glass jars in the fridge. However, use the grind of cornmeal that you prefer: all fine, all coarse, or even medium.

3) Don’t feel like making corn cakes from scratch? Use a store-bought corn muffin mix, thin it with a little milk, and cook them in a skillet. Or buy four corn muffins from a bakery instead. Just pop them in the microwave for about 20 seconds, slice them in thirds, and spread out the layers on a plate. Top with the black beans, tilapia, and salsa.

4) Make it veggie. Simply omit the fish!

5) Since you’re not draining the canned beans, I recommend using organic beans for this dish. They don’t contain the preservatives and coloring agents found in other canned beans. However, if you use non-organic beans, drain and rinse them. You can always add a little water or vegetable stock to the pan as the beans are cooking.

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