Grilled Tilapia with Charred Sweet Corn Relish
This dish is almost too simple for how delicious it is. The relish, bursting with the acidity of cherry tomatoes, slightly smoky sweet corn, and fresh herbs is perfect next to the barely charred Tilapia. For something truly special, try and pick out as many ingredients as you can at a local farmer’s market while the ingredients in the relish are in season and at their peak this summer.
To make execution of this dish as easy and painless as possible, make the relish up to three hours ahead, only tossing in the herbs at the last minute before serving. With the relish out of the way, full attention can be focused on grilling the fish to perfection.
Serves 4 as a light dinner
- 2 pounds Tilapia, sea bass or favorite white fish
- 6 cobs of sweet corn
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 sweet onion
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade (you can substitute cilantro for a Mexican-themed twist)
- 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 6 chive sprigs, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons good red wine or sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup virgin olive oil (plus more for grilling corn, onions, and Tilapia)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Preheat a grill to a high flame (you can also use a broiler to diminished results)
To begin, shuck the corn and toss the cobs in either butter or olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Slice the sweet onion and do the same (toss in olive oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper).
Grill the onions and corn until well-charred. Beware of potentially eye-poking-out flying corn kernels!
Allow the corn and onions to cool. To make removing the kernels less messy, cut the corn cobs in half and carefully remove the kernels from the cobb with a sharp knife. Roughly chop the onions into 1/4″ thick pieces.
In a large bowl, combine the corn, onions, quartered cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Again, the relish can be made at least a few hours before grilling the fish.
***Add in the fresh basil chiffonade, chopped parsley, chives and season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
Grilling The Fish
To finish, the fish needs to be grilled. But before you rush mindlessly (like I did) and end up with dismantled Tilapia (like mine) and a dirty grill (that you’ll have to clean up), take these few easy precautions to prevent the fish from sticking.
1. Dry the Tilapia with paper towels until no moisture remains on the towel.
2. Toss the fish in a high-heat, refined oil such as canola, peanut, or extra-light olive oil.
3. Thoroughly clean and oil the grill grates.
4. Season with salt and pepper just before grilling to prevent the salt from drawing moisture out of the fish.
5. Let the fish cook, flipping only once. This will allow the protein structure on the outside of the fish to fully form and remove from the grill, thereby allowing it to not stick to the grate, like we want.
Otherwise, pay careful attention, get used to touching the fish as it grills, looking for a slightly springy texture, and go with your gut instinct. If you think it’s done then it probably is. And if not, now you know what not-done-fish feels like. Grilling is as much an art as it is a science– and there’s no room for thermometers when grilling fish!
Plate and serve hot with the relish and your favorite glass of white wine.
During dinner, we got into a rather lengthy and relatively heated discussion about how much we would pay for a dish like this in a few different scenarios– a fine dining restaurant, a casual lunch spot, and a specialized ‘gourmet’ catering truck that drives around town selling fresh local food.
How much would you pay and how would your expectations change depending on the situation?