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Basil and Sunflower Tilapia

It’s gray and dismal outside my office window this morning. It feels more like 6 am than 7 am as the clouds hang thick. The grass, which is just starting to show signs of the brilliant hue that we’ll love for three seasons, looks muted and pathetic. This is not the sunny day I was hoping for. I should have been up at 6 a.m. … but when the alarm went off, I turned it off with the intention of getting up in a minute or two. I felt wide awake at the time. An hour and a half later, I rose.

Not too long ago, a late start like this would have spelled panic, agitation and worry for my day. It wasn’t that long ago that I was stifled by stress and overcome with disorganization. My office is still a mess, but me? I’ve learned the art and joy of being organized about everything I do. That feels good.

I also felt that feeling of being stifled not too long ago with food. I wasn’t sure if Paige would be okay eating fish, although I had no genetic reasons for being concerned. That fear felt like it limited and thwarted me with cooking. So when we gave her a few tastes here and there, it was like the sun peaked through the clouds and I took a much-needed breath.

This particular recipe began nagging and playing in my head when I spied another very fresh, very fresh, very pungent bunch of basil at the grocery store. Of course, I didn’t leave without it.

The taste has strong notes of sunflower, but the sauce has the texture of pesto. Did you know that sunflower seeds are one of the World’s Healthiest Foods? Very high in vitamin E and vitamin B-1, they have been shown in studies to lower cholesterol levels, lower high blood pressure, reduce the symptoms of asthma and even may protect against cancer. Basil, which is high in vitamin K, is also one of the World’s Healthiest Foods. Ultimately, the dish is pretty nutritious, fairly low in calories and delicious over rice.

Yield: 2 servings

Basil and Sunflower Tilapia

Basil and Sunflower Tilapia
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 2 cups packed basil
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, , crushed
  • 1 to mato, (about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • salt
  • 1/2 lb tilapia


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine the basil, olive oil, garlic, tomato, sunflower seeds and a little salt in a food processor and process until it's roughly the texture of pesto.
  3. In an oven-safe casserole dish that is large enough to fit the filets of tilapia, but not too much larger, spread half of the sunflower-basil mixture. Place the tilapia on top and cover completely with the other half of the sunflower-basil mixture.
  4. Place in the oven and cook, 20-25 minutes until fish flakes easily. Flake all of the fish and stir together with the sauce.

Sarah Caron

Monday 16th of March 2009

Cate, that is awesome. So lucky.

Kalyn, it's definitely not a combination that you find often, but it's really very good.

Jo, let me know what you think!


Sunday 15th of March 2009

wow! this really appeals to me... I love basil and sunflower seeds and tilapia! I am so going to have to try this one. thank you!


Saturday 14th of March 2009

Love the sound of this; very interesting combination!

Cate O'Malley

Wednesday 11th of March 2009

Mmmm, love tilapia. Just made some in a cooking class last night, and it's on the menu here for tonight. There was extra leftover, so the instructor sent everyone home with fresh fish - how cool is that? Yours looks great - anything with fresh basil has got to be good.

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