Tilapia Cake Contest Finalist

Tilapia Cake Contest Finalist

– by Brent Bennett


  • 16 oz. Regal Springs tilapia filets
  • 6 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 4 cups Panko
  • 2 sticks margarine, divided
  • 4 cups watermelon, seedless, chopped
  • 3 ears fresh sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • Tbsp. kosher salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3 tsp. chives, minced
  • 1 tsp. parsley, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. basil, minced


  • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Rub a non-stick sheet pan with 1 tsp. of margarine. Season tilapia with 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt and 1/8 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper. Evenly distribute the ground coriander, garlic powder and cayenne pepper over the filets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked through. Cool to room temperature.
  • To Make Watermelon Soup: Place chopped watermelon in a blender. Then add 1/8 tsp. of salt and 1 Tbsp. lime juice and blend until it is pureed. Pour into bowl and stir in the minced basil. Refrigerate.
  • To make Margarine Compound: Mix together 1 stick of margarine, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tsp. of minced parsley. Note: Margarine should be at room temperature before mixing and this should be mixed until homogenous.
  • Clean corn of the husks and silks. Rub each ear with about 1 tbsp. of the “margarine compound.” Cut the ends off of the red pepper. Then stand up straight and cut into 4 even sections. Lay the sections skin side down and remove the white flesh. Season the corn and the red bell pepper with a pinch of salt and pepper and place on the grill. Grill the corn for 10 to 15 minutes until you see grill marks on the corn. The red bell peppers will take 6 to 10 minutes. Start them skin side down. When the skin starts to turn black flip to flesh side down. When the peppers start to soften, they can be removed. Allow corn and red peppers to cool.
  • Cut both ends off of the red onion. Cut in half. Cut half of onion into thin slices. Soak the onion slices in ice water for 10 to 15 minutes to remove harshness. After 10 to 15 minutes, strain.
  • Once the grilled vegetables have cooled enough to handle, cut off all corn kernels with a knife and place in a mixing bowl. Place the sliced onions in the bowl and mix. Then season with 3/4 tsp. of salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, 1/2 tbsp. lime juice and 1 tsp. of minced parsley. Mix to distribute seasonings and vegetables.
  • In a mixing bowl, mix together 6 tbsp. of mayonnaise, 8 tbsp. of panko, 3 tsp. of minced chives and 4 tsp. of lime juice. Break the cooled tilapia into big chunks and add them to the bowl. Mix everything to combine, trying not to break the tilapia too much. Then season with a pinch of salt and pepper and form into four equal size balls. Shape balls into a patty resembling a hockey puck. Dredge each cake in 1 to 2 cups of panko, until the entire outside surface is coated.
  • Heat a stainless steel saute pan on medium high heat. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. of margarine. Once the margarine has melted and started to bubble, add in the tilapia cakes. Pan fry on one side until brown and crispy. Then flip over with a spatula and start to brown the other side. If you have an oven safe sauté pan, then place the pan in the oven for 4 to 6 minutes to finish heating the cakes all the way through. If not, then place the tilapia cakes on a sheet pan and place in the oven.
  • To plate, ladle 3 oz. of the chilled watermelon and basil soup into a bowl. Spoon 1/2 cup of the grilled corn, red pepper and onion medley into the bowl in a straight line. Then place one cake on top of the vegetables in the middle of the plate. Then place another 1 1/2 tbsp. of the vegetables on top of the cake. Garnish with a chive cut in half and laid criss crossed on top.

Yield: 4 servings.