Recipe: Almond Tilapia

Far more in the spirit of invasive species awareness than direct management, I bought tilapia for today’s recipe. And in this confession lies the crux of eating invasive species.

Almond Tilapia all served up
Finished Almond Tilapia. Photo A. Deines

Should consumer demand for edible invasives ever reach the fervor required to drive harmful populations to extinction, that same economic force would provide incentives to farm and/or further spread the species in new locations.  Much touted as a sustainable alternative seafood, tilapia is a good example of market demand for an invasive species driving it’s invasion.

Without good legislation combating the spread of harmful species like tilapias, invasions will continue to be substantial economic externalities for meals like this.  Good legislation, however, begins with awareness.  So in that spirit…

Recipe: Almond tilapia


Almond tilapia raw ingredients
Almond tilapia ingredients. Photo A. Deines

2 tilapia fillets, about 150g (5 oz) each

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in a large skillet at a medium temperature.  While the oil heats, lightly coat the tilapia fillets in whole wheat flour.  Briefly saute the slivered almonds, then lay the floured fillets directly on top of the almonds (see picture below).  Drizzle lemon juice and some salt onto the fish and cover with a lid.

Tilapia fillets cooking over almonds
Tilapia fillets cooking over almonds. Photo A. Deines

Cook for 3-5 min based on thickness of the fillet.  The almond slivers should begin to turn brown.  Using a wide flat spatula, flip the fillets over while being sure to hold the almonds together with the fish.  Cover the skillet again and cook another 3-5 mins, until the thickest portion of the fillet flakes when probed with a fork.  Remove the fillets onto serving plates, and drizzle with some more lemon juice.

Finished Almond Tilapia with lemon wedges
Finished Almond Tilapia. Photo A. Deines

I sprinkled some parsley onto the finished product for show, and added some salt and pepper to taste.  I recommend a steam or stir-fry vegetable side dish, which seasonally offers great potential for it’s own invasivory.  White wine is traditional with a white fish, but I had a Bota Box malbec, which was perfect with the earthy tones of the vegetables and the dark roasted almonds.

2 thoughts on “Recipe: Almond Tilapia

  • February 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Should consumer demand for edible invasives ever reach the fervor required to drive harmful populations to extinction, that same economic force would provide incentives to farm and/or further spread the species in new locations.

    I’ve been pondering this every so often for a while. I agree that your conclusion is likely correct, but I’m not so sure it’s an open-and-shut case. Here’s why:

    1 If range expansion isn’t harmful to humans, it’s not an “invasion,” right? Then it’s more like agriculture.

    2 Farmers could become a powerful interest group for prevention and control. I’ve heard GMO corn is somewhat invasive, for example. I’d expect that this channel would be especially relevant for invasives that have a minimum sustainable density that is high enough such that invasions would have to be intentional, by agents who don’t intend to recoup their costs (eg govt, charitable NGOs).

    We have available to us several examples of intentional introductions driven by invasivory. Many have gone awry. Are there some that haven’t? Would cows be invasive?

    Has there been yet one example in which development of technology (e.g. specialized traps, tasty recipes) has contributed to successful control of an invasive population? Maybe wild horses? Are there other examples of where a human-assisted invasion dramatically altered the ecosystem but unambiguously improved human welfare? I can’t think of any off-hand, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    My sense is that the essential theoretical difficulty seems to be that control of most invasions is really expensive. Once an invasive population gets consumed down to be anywhere near min. sustainable population, it becomes too costly to harvest. My hunch is those two are key parameter.

    A separate consideration, which may be overriding, is the distribution of costs and benefits. Introducing tilapia or crayfish may make fishers rich, at the expense of everyone else. Even if an introduction is in fact welfare-enhancing, if there is no mechanism for redistributing the benefits (e.g. property rights, tort) then an introduction can exacerbate poverty (or reduce poverty if, say, fishers are the poorest).

    I share ecologists’ dismay– when an ecosystem gets messed with, it can seem like all bets are off. But these concerns must be balanced against the urgency of poverty alleviation in order to be taken seriously in a policy arena. Clearly identifying which introductions might be helpful could also make it easier to prevent potentially disastrous invasions.

    I love the site! Keep up the excellent work!

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