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Cool Meals for Hot Nights: Grilled Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa

This is a new series that will run weekly through the end of August, consisting of recipes that are great options for those nights when it's just too hot to turn on the oven. Most of the recipes will come from women who run "hyperlocal" websites for families, similar to Go West Young Mom, in other cities across the country. The first one, however, comes from your truly.

Confession: I am scared of fish.

Clarification: I am scared of cooking fish.

Grilled Tilapia with Pineapple Salsa, served with green beans. Photo by Tara Burghart.But as a kid, I was scared to eat fish, too. I was sure that I was going to choke on a bone. I grew up in central Illinois, you see, far from any ocean, sea, large lake or mighty river. 

So my family just didn't eat a lot of fish.

We'd eat catfish sometimes on Fridays during Lent. (This explains the fear of bones. Catfish are very boney.) I would occasionally get shrimp (fried, of course, and smothered in cocktail sauce) at a supper club-type restaurant we'd visit for birthdays and other special occasions. I'm sure I must have had some frozen fishsticks during my 1970s childhood. But my family never even ate at Long John Silver's. (When we first started dating, my husband couldn't believe I had no idea what a hushpuppy was.)

A few times during college, my dorm offered lobster -- and plastic bibs to wear while you ate the lobster. I decided my first experience with lobster should not be in a cafeteria.

And then I became an adult, and I traveled and ate out often and tried to expand my palette. I started gradually ordering seafood in restaurants, only after confirming with the waiter that it would have "no bones" and not taste "fishy." (I'm sure those waiters could tell they were dealing with quite the sophisticate!) Living in Oregon for a couple of years certainly helped -- I ate lots of salmon, and our favorite local fast-food restaurant made a point to tell you if the fish in the fish 'n' chips was halibut or cod that week. Back in Chicago, I was lucky to have some girlfriends who liked to go out for sushi -- they would order a wide variety of rolls, and I could try different types without worrying that I'd end up with a seafood entree I hated and a $25 bill. 

So now I have quite a list of seafood that I've tried and know I enjoy. I also know that I don't like swordish, and that I probably need to give scallops another chance. 

Still, I don't cook seafood at home. I'm just sure that I'll mess it up, or hate it and end up with a $25 grocery bill for fish that ended up in the trash can. Yet I have a few friends who cook fish regularly for their families, and rave about how quick it is and how nutritious and ... yada, yada, yada.

The fish before it headed to the grill. Look! I finally got to use my special "fish" cutting board! Photo by Tara Burghart.So when I was browsing the web, looking for recipes for this "Cool Meals" series, and I came across a recipe for Grilled Tilapia with Pinapple Salsa from Taste of Home, I decided I'd give it a try.

And you know what? It grilled very quickly, and my husband and I gobbled it up. It was a perfect meal on a night when the thermometer never dipped below 90 degrees. Our nearly 4-year-old daughter, however, was too distracted by the fact that we were eating fish to actually eat it. Looks like I better start preparing fish more often, or else I'm going to have my own kid who is scared of fish.


Prep/Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Source: Taste of Home June/July 2009 


  • 2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 4 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 8 tilapia fillets (4 ounces each)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper


  • In a small bowl, combine the pineapple, onions, green pepper, cilantro, 4 teaspoons lime juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt and cayenne. Chill until serving.
  • Combine oil and remaining lime juice; drizzle over fillets. Sprinkle with pepper and remaining salt.
  • Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Grill fish, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 in. from the heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with salsa. Yield: 8 servings (2 cups salsa).

Tara's Notes:  

  • I used frozen tilapia filets that I thawed before putting on the grill. Hey ... it was my first time cooking fish! But I'd like to try to use fresh tilapia next time.
  • I cut this recipe in half, since it was just for three people.
  • I omitted the cayenne pepper from the salsa, because I thought it might be too spicy for my preschooler. Next time, I'll put her serving of salsa aside and then add the cayenne pepper to the rest for the adults. I think the salsa could have used that little "kick."

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