Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia

I’ve decided there is not nearly enough poetry in my life.

Once upon a time, my life was all about poetry. I spent my senior year in college immersed in it. My senior honors project was an independent research paper and 2-hour presentation (yikes! 😯 ) focusing on the works of Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath and Alicia Ostriker. A little self-indulgent, maybe, but valuable nonetheless. I was struggling with a lot of inner demons at the time, and connecting with these women was cathartic in a way that I couldn’t have found anywhere else. 

Which reminds me…I’m setting the goal of revisiting Ostriker’s The Mother/Child Papers sometime in the very near future. It enthralled me back then, and I can’t wait to read it again through my new mother’s eyes. The author wrote the book during the 1970s, right before the birth of her son, and the undercurrent throughout the book is her personal conflict with bringing a child into a world where wars, shootings and bombings were top of mind in the daily news. 

Boy, can I relate to that.

It’s a delicious book of rich poems. I highly recommend it, along with The Volcano Sequence and Stealing the Language.

Around that same time, I was also getting to know another set of fabulous women who became my lifelong friends. “Inspiring” just doesn’t seem to cut it, but I can’t come up with a better word… I’m happy to say that I keep in touch with several of them, and while I can’t see them often, I count them among my biggest blessings thus far in my life. I spent many an hour engaged in conversations that helped shape me as a woman, many of which happened at a restaurant called The Batdorf, where the food was as good as the company.

My favorite dish? The Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia. It was a thick piece of flaky, white fish covered in a thick, seasoned crust, served over a pile of garlic smashed potatoes. I miss it almost as much as I miss those discussions over a glass of Cab or a dirty martini…(That was one of my saddest realizations after leaving college. Most people I come across now want to chat, not discuss…BIG difference :( )

I can’t go back to 2006, but I sure can recreate this dish at home!

I have to credit the original recipe I found to, but I made some tweaks and this is my version. (A note about this recipe: this crust freezes really well, so make a double batch and freeze half. Prep time is about 5 minutes when you just pull a bag of crust mix and some fish out of the freezer. This recipe has saved my life many times after a long day at work…)

Tortilla-Crusted Tilapia

4 tilapia fillets

6 whole wheat tortillas, torn in pieces

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded 

1 or 2 teaspoons lime juice, to taste

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

1 egg (for dredging. You can use any dredging method you like. Egg and milk, just milk, just egg, or a non-dairy alternative like almond milk. I use coconut milk.)

Preheat oven to 375º. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or cover with foil.

Place tortilla pieces, peppers, lime juice, cilantro and spices in food processor. Pulse until mixture is uniform with thick crumbs.

Spread mixture on a plate.

Dredge each fillet in egg/milk/etc., then in crumbs, patting to adhere. (I prefer a really thick coating of crumb). Don’t forget the bottom! Place on baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes, then uncover to crisp up the outside of the crust, 5–10 minutes more, depending on thickness.

Nowadays, I forgo the smashed potatoes in favor of a more diverse side dish. While I like fresh veggies best, I also like quick and easy, so this time we tried this new frozen side from Alexia. 

Wow, was it easy! Not too bad on flavor, either. 

I’m pleasantly surprised by this ingredients list…especially for a prepared, frozen option.

Ta-da! Just like The Batdorf used to make! …or close, at least.  (The aroma is close enough to really take me back there…)

I’m really itching to get my nose into that book, but my brother is in town from Ohio so we’ll spend the day visiting (for the first time since Christmas! 😀 ), and tomorrow is my husband’s family reunion. Oh well…I’ll get to it sooner or later.

Yeah, I miss those days of wine and poetry, but it’s a trade-off, right? One love for another…



Have you ever tried to recreate a favorite restaurant dish at home? How did it turn out?

Was it as good without the atmosphere?


  1. says

    I also read a lot of poetry as a writing, lit, and publishing major in college and really miss indulging in it…

    The dish sounds great and I can’t believe that side by Alexia…need to find it!


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