Fried Coconut Tilapia Strips

As a home cook, I strive to create delicious meals that are beautiful, yet simple. Meals that fit comfortably within the realities of every day life, with it's incessant hustle and bustle. That is not to say that once in a while I will not find the time to prepare a dish that requires the use of 3 pans, 12 different ingredients, 2 different kinds of meats, and homemade broth, for the sake of being a la Julia Child. But for weekday dinners, casual gatherings, and even special occasions, I try to keep it simple, quick, and easy. Esther Deutsch, in her new cookbook

Chic Made Simple,

brings 200 new recipes to pique your interest and satiate your appetite.

In Chic, you have a little bit of everything, from French-inspired

Beef Bourguignon


Orange-Scented Rack of Veal,


Pistachio Pesto Fettuccine Alfredo


Spiced Mocha Mousse with Viennese Crunch

. And there is even a step-by-step guide to make the cutest Chanel cupcakes. 

I got a chance to ask Esther a few questions about the book.

What drives you to keep on creating and developing recipes?

I have a hard time following recipes precisely. When cooking with a recipe I have this innate compulsion to change or add ingredients. (It’s so much easier using ingredients you already have on hand than having to run out and buy ingredients). Because of my "inability to follow a recipe syndrome" developing new recipes became second nature. Many of the recipes in CHIC include substitute suggestions that can be used to replace certain ingredients in the recipes. Other than being convenient, the suggestions convey a message of confidence to the readers that enables them to use their own creativity in the kitchen. Most of all, it's a thrill for me to create recipes that are super easy yet give the impression that you slaved for hours.

Where do you gain inspiration?

Wanting to spend time with my children inspires me to create fast and easy recipes. Raising young children definitely does not offer the luxury of fussing in the kitchen all day. When expecting company, I don’t want to spend an entire Friday cooking in the kitchen while my children are home. So when I cook, my main objective is to cook recipes that will be quick and easy.

How long did it take you to work on your cookbook?

It took me two years to work on the book. But, since I was having so much fun doing it, it went by fairly quickly.

What makes you feel successful in this endeavor?

I am most proud that I managed to write this book while still being there for my children

when they got home from school every day. Balancing both was a daunting challenge.

Cramming full time hours in to a part time day taught me tremendous discipline and

focus that transfers to other aspects of my life.

You have great skills in styling and plating the food. Where did you learn and what tips

can you share with our readers?

I have never gone to culinary school and don't consider myself to be a chef - I am a cook. So, there isn’t really a specific method of training behind my food styling. My approach is "less is more" when it comes to plating food. What people find appealing is presentation that's kept simple - all you need is a clean white plate, a simple garnish, and a little TLC to produce a beautiful dish. It's ok if it's not perfect. There is beauty in imperfection. The photographers that worked on

Chic Made Simple

are amazingly talented and they were able to capture the special quality of the recipes. The camera is less forgiving than food that's presented in real life, so in the studio my most important tool is a pair of tweezers. Who knew tweezers can be so effective?

Thank you Esther for sharing your experience with us.

Now to truly gauge the success of a cookbook, you must try the recipes. I did just that, starting with the

Coconut Tilapia with Apricot Teriyaki Sauce


The fish was coated in a crunchy layer of breading and coconut flakes, with the coconut adding a hint of flavor that was at once unexpected and welcomed. It enhanced the delicate flesh of the tilapia and balanced the flavors remarkably.

I served it alongside a fresh arugula salad and it made a perfectly light and filling dinner. The kids liked it, too, which means it got promoted to being part of my meal planning (the one I make and never keep) repertoire.

If you'd like to peruse the book yourself, now you'll have a chance to 

win a copy

, a special gift just in time for the holiday.


1. Leave a comment.

Tell me what your favorite fast, yet fabulous recipe is.

Or what you're making for dinner tomorrow. Or what you'll do with the cookbook if you win.

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Giveaway starts on November 30, 2012 and will run until December 9, 2012 at 11:59pm PST.

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Disclaimer:  I was provided with the cookbooks for the purpose of doing a review and giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Coconut Tilapia with Apricot Teriyako Sauce


4 slices of tilapia fillet

Peanut oil, for frying

Dipping sauce:

1 cup apricot jam

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2 rbsp white or red horseradish, drained

2 tbsp teriyaki sauce

Coating 1

1/2 cup cornstarch

kosher salt

black pepper

Coating 2

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Coating 3

1 cup fine ground coconut

1 cup coconut flakes


1. To prepare the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients.

2. Cut the tilapia into 3/4-inch-wide strips (about 4-6 strips per slice). Trim the top and bottom of each strip to form a neat rectangular shape.

3. Prepare three bowls for the coatings. In one bowl, combine the cornstarch, salt, and black pepper. In a second bowl, combine the eggs, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. In the third bowl, combine the fine ground coconut and the coconut flakes.

4. Coat the tilapia strips on all sides with the cornstarch coating, then coat with the egg mixture. Finally, coat the tilapia with the coconut coating.

5. In a frying pan, heat the peanut oil over medium high heat. (Make sure the oil is very hot before frying or the fish will stick to the pan.) Fry the tilapia on both sides until it is golden brown and the crust is crispy, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove the tilapia and drain on a paper towel. Serve with the dipping sauce. 


: I decided to include the original recipe, but wanted to share with you the variations I made. I used matza meal instead of cornstarch, because I like the thick, crunchy crust it forms when fried. I did not have coconut flakes and used 2 cups of ground coconut instead. Also, I did not make the apricot sauce. Instead, we enjoyed it with a salsa and cholula sauce, going for the spicy route. It paired well together.