Greek Baked Tilapia With Simple Tapenade Recipe

whole baked tilapia on plate
whole baked tilapia on plate - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Being a country surrounded by endless expanses of crystalline blue waters, much of Greek cuisine relies on the fresh catches of the Mediterranean Sea. Octopus, for example, is hung to dry along the harbors and later used in bright summer appetizers. Branzino is native to the Mediterranean and famously used in Grecian cuisine for whole-roasted meals; so notable, in fact, that the method of cooking is usually referred to as "Greek-style." Coated in local olive oil, dressed with lemon, and doused in parsley, onions, and tomatoes, it's a delicious part of a cuisine rich in fresh ingredients and easy preparation — not to mention, it's fun to dig into, bringing your friends and family close for an intimate meal.

Recipe developer Michelle McGlinn draws inspiration from traditional Greek ingredients and preparation in this recipe for baked tilapia with simple tapenade. Not a typical fish for eating whole, tilapia's unique flavor requires strong additions like garlic, lemon, and olives. By baking the tilapia with a freshly-made tapenade, the fish transforms into a juicy, robust meal you can dig into straight from the oven. A surprisingly easy meal, this whole-roasted tilapia makes for both a light weeknight dinner and a main course at dinner parties alike. If you (or your dinner party guests) aren't keen on eating around the bones, we included some tips to make it feel like you've lived on the coast of Greece your whole life.

Read more: 15 Different Ways To Cook Fish

Gathering Ingredients For Greek Baked Tilapia With Simple Tapenade

ingredients for Greek baked tilapia
ingredients for Greek baked tilapia - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

The tapenade used in this recipe is fairly straightforward — a classic Mediterranean take on the olive pâté. You'll first need pitted kalamata and green olives, though you can omit one or the other or add black olives depending on preference. You'll also need capers, as well as lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, some of which you'll use again for the fish.

Next, you'll need a few whole tilapia. Each tilapia serves two people, so for four servings you'll only need two fish. From there, you'll just need lemon slices.

Step 1: Begin Making The Tapenade

tapenade ingredients in food processor
tapenade ingredients in food processor - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

To make the tapenade, add the garlic, capers, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil to a food processor.

Step 2: Pulse To Chop

chopped ingredients in food processor
chopped ingredients in food processor - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Pulse until finely chopped.

Step 3: Add The Remaining Tapenade Ingredients

olives in food processor
olives in food processor - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Add the olives, salt, and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. Set the tapenade aside.

Step 4: Preheat The Oven

preheating the oven
preheating the oven - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Step 5: Prepare The Fish For Baking

tilapia on sheet tray
tilapia on sheet tray - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Place the fish on a parchment-lined sheet tray and slice 3 slits into each belly.

Step 6: Brush With Oil

brushing fish with oil
brushing fish with oil - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Brush each fish on both sides with olive oil.

Step 7: Add The Tapenade

tapenade on fish
tapenade on fish - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Add the tapenade in and around the fish, stuffing some into the cavity.

Step 8: Add The Lemon And Garlic

lemon slices on fish
lemon slices on fish - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Place the lemon and garlic slices on top of the fish and in the cavity.

Step 9: Roast Fish Until Flaky

roasted fish on sheet tray
roasted fish on sheet tray - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Roast the fish for 18-20 minutes, until flaky.

Step 10: Sprinkle With Parsley To Serve

fish sprinkled with parsley on plate
fish sprinkled with parsley on plate - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

To serve, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Greek Baked Tilapia With Simple Tapenade Recipe

greek baked tilapia on plate
greek baked tilapia on plate - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

How Do I Serve A Whole Baked Tilapia?

baked tilapia with fork on plate
baked tilapia with fork on plate - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Eating whole fish can be mystifying if you've never done it before; the truth is, though, that it's as simple as digging in. Remind your guests — and yourself — to eat slowly and mindfully, because the fish is still fully boned. The bones will be obvious but thin enough that one or two may go unnoticed on your fork. If this happens, don't panic, simply remove the bone when you notice it while chewing. To help your confidence, do most of your digging in the meaty middle filet, avoiding the smallest bones located on the spine, near the tail, and around the head. When you've eaten the meat of the initial filet, grab the tail and spine and remove in one piece, revealing the now-boneless lower filet.

Unlike a typical filet, which might be served on top of other sides, whole fish is usually eaten in small bites on its own, accompanied by sides to be enjoyed separately. Great sides to pair whole fish with will be filling and great on their own, not needing to be on the same fork as your fish. We recommend pairing with a lemony, leafy green salad or a light summer soup. You can also serve with roasted new potatoes or latkes. An easy pairing option is grilled vegetables, especially in-season finds like asparagus, tomato, summer squash, and mushrooms.

What Can I Use Extra Tapenade For?

tapenade in a bowl
tapenade in a bowl - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Depending on the size of your fish, you may have extra tapenade after baking. If you plan to use your remaining tapenade, be careful when dressing your fish. To avoid cross-contamination, spoon the tapenade over the fish and work into the cavities using your hands, using a new spoon or clean hands if you need to add more. Once the fish is coated and filled with tapenade, store the rest in an airtight container until ready to use.

You can use the tapenade on warm crusty bread, which makes a great, simple side dish for the fish. You can also use it as a snack or appetizer on crackers, pita, or naan. You can combine it with hummus or mix it into labneh for a more filling snack, or bake it into feta for a gooey pre-party app. Tapenade is also delicious on sandwiches like ham and cheese or tuna salad. And if you really like tapenade, give it a try on top of burgers or mixed into pasta as a sauce.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.