March 17, 2014

Do you have a favorite restaurant dish that you want to replicate at home? Perhaps you want to try your hand at making it or you want to put your own spin on a particular dish. Or maybe you've been dreaming about a certain something you tasted on a recent vacation.

You can impress your family and friends and save money with restaurant-inspired menu ideas for fish and seafood.

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Mango Salsa

Our son Kellan loves to eat at Chili's because there is an electronic gaming device on each table. I like to eat there because I enjoy their Mango Chile Tilapia. It is a fresh and flavorful dish that doesn't weigh you down.

I especially love the combination of the avocado, mango and cilantro atop the firm and flaky fish. The cookbook "Fine Cooking Fresh" has a dish similar to the one I like and order often.

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

3 Roma tomatoes, washed, diced

1 ripe medium mango, seed removed, peeled and diced (or you can use jarred mango)

½ cup diced red onion

1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, diced

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

¼ cup canola oil, divided

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ancho chili powder or your favorite chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)

sea salt to taste

4 skinless tilapia fillets (about 4 oz each)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a heatproof platter on the middle rack of the oven.

In a medium bowl, combine the beans, tomatoes, mango, red onion, avocado, lime juice, 2 tablespoons canola oil, cilantro and black pepper; toss gently. Let the salsa sit at room temperature while you cook the fish.

In a small bowl, mix ¼ teaspoon black pepper with the chili powder, cumin, oregano and about ½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste. Rub both sides of the tilapia fillets with the mixture.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat until hot. Working in batches, cook two of the tilapia fillets until lightly browned and the flesh is opaque and cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the fish to the platter in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining two fillets. Transfer the fillets to the platter, and spoon half of the salsa on top. Serve with rice and broccoli and the remaining salsa on the side.

Serves 4

Baked Coconut Shrimp

If I see coconut shrimp on the menu, I always consider ordering it. I love the sweet crust on the shrimp, and I especially love the slightly spicy and always sweet dipping sauce.

Bobby Deen shared a more healthful way to enjoy this appetizer by baking it in the oven instead of frying it in oil.

Dipping Sauce:

1 teaspoon curry powder

pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 orange, zested and juiced


½ cup flaked unsweetened coconut

6 tablespoons plain panko breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 large egg whites

1 lb large (21/25 count) raw shrimp, peeled (tails left on), deveined, butterflied and patted dry

salt and freshly ground black pepper

nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

To make the dipping sauce: Toast the curry and red pepper flakes in a saucepan over medium heat, about 1 minute. Add the honey, vinegar and orange juice and zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To make the shrimp: Combine the coconut, panko and flour in a bowl or baking dish. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until slightly frothy. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add to the egg whites and toss to coat. Lift each shrimp from the egg whites, letting the excess drip off the shrimp, and then coat in the crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Place the shrimp on the baking sheet in a single layer. Lightly spray with nonstick spray. Bake until the shrimp are golden on the outside and opaque in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Barbecue Salmon

With two hungry boys to feed, sometimes it's easy enough to take them to a buffet for lunch or dinner. With all of the tempting options in front of me, it's hard to make good choices. However, at our favorite Chinese buffet, barbecue salmon is always available.

½ cup Kraft Thick 'n' Spicy Original Barbecue Sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 green onion, sliced

4 salmon fillets or steaks (1 lb)

Heat greased grill to medium-high heat. Mix first 3 ingredients until blended. Grill fish 4 minutes on each side. Brush generously with sauce. Grill 2 to 4 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork, turning occasionally and brushing with remaining sauce.


1. Can be prepared using halibut or swordfish steaks.

2. Fish can be broiled instead of grilled. Mix sauce as directed. Place fish on rack of broiler pan. Broil, 4 inches from heat, 4 minutes on each side. Brush generously with sauce. Broil 2 to 4 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork, turning once and brushing occasionally with remaining sauce.

Clinton's Fried Fish Tacos

Clinton Kelly, best known as co-host of "What Not to Wear," is now part of the daytime cooking show "The Chew" and shared his recipe for fish tacos.

Fish tacos are popping up on restaurant menus everywhere, including fast-food joints. The fish can be fried or grilled and is usually topped with a cabbage slaw. Personally I like cabbage slaw that is vinegar-based with a little bit of a bite.

2½ lbs halibut (cut into 1x4 in pieces)

1½ cups flour


freshly cracked black pepper

12 oz dark Mexican beer

corn tortillas (6 in; warmed)

cilantro (to garnish)

lime wedges (to garnish)

vegetable oil (for frying)

For the Spicy Crema:

2/3 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons chopped chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce)


For the Cabbage Slaw:

2 cups shredded green cabbage

½ red onion (slivered and rinsed with water)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 limes (juice)


freshly cracked black pepper

Prepare the Spicy Crema and Cabbage Slaw before cooking fish. Preheat oil to 350 degrees. Pat fish dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a bowl, whisk together the flour with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in beer and set aside. Working in batches, dip the fish into the beer batter to coat completely, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Gently place in the hot oil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until rich golden. Remove from oil to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.

To assemble, spread a tablespoon of spicy crema onto the center of a corn tortilla. Place a piece of fried fish over sauce. Top with Cabbage Slaw. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.

For the Spicy Crema: Stir together the ingredients and adjust seasoning to taste.

For the Cabbage Slaw: Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. This can be covered and store in the fridge a few hours in advance.

Helpful Tips:

1. Rinse the sliced onions in cold water to reduce their strong flavor. Or, you can substitute the raw onions for pickled onions, if you prefer.

2. Cod or mahi-mahi would be good alternatives for the halibut.

Neptune Salad

On a very recent trip to the grocery store, I discovered one of my favorite salads had been discontinued so I tossed together my own version. It's an ideal side dish or lunch to take to work.

2½ cups (dry) small shell pasta

2 pkgs imitation crab meat (flaked)

1 cup bottled Caesar dressing (I used Ken's)

½ cup diced celery

Cook pasta according to package directions and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, mix together pasta, crab meat, dressing, and celery. If you prefer a little more crunch, add ½ cup diced red onion and ½ cup red or green bell pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.