Washington state is really starting to grow on me- especially with its abundance of fresh seafood all year long. I heard about this yummy appetizer from an Inn in Seaview and had to try my own take on it. I used one of my favorite fish, tilapia, as the base for these poppers. The great thing about tilapia is that it takes on any flavor you bring to it. I mixed some flaked fillets with green onion, garlic, parsley, panko (use plain ol’ breadcrumbs if you can’t find panko), a whole lot of fresh lemon, and eggs for binding. Roll all that flavor into 1 inch balls, dip in milk, then into breadcrumbs, then into some hot oil- easy! I have even tested this recipe out on a few friends who don’t ‘love’ fish and they gave rave reviews! And of course you’re going to want a green caper-parsley dipping sauce for the poppers. And once all the poppers are gone you’re going to think about finishing that sauce with a spoon because it’s just that good.
Serve the tilapia poppers warm on a bed of spinach with the caper-parsley dipping sauce.
Start by making your caper-parsley dipping sauce. Combine the olive oil, drained capers, parsley, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor and blend until combined. Taste test and season with salt and pepper to taste. The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.
When you’re ready to start your poppers, lay about 1 pound worth of tilapia fillets on a baking sheet. Coat both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 until firm to the touch, 5-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillets).
Let the fish cool slightly, then flake with 2 forks and add into an electric mixing bowl along with the green onions, parsley, flour, garlic, lemon zest, panko, eggs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Mix on low speed until combined.
Form the mixture into 1-inch diameter balls, dip in the milk, then coat in the additional panko or breadcrumbs. I ended up with 18 balls.
Add the vegetable oil to a deep frying pan to the depth of 1 inch and heat over medium high. Place the poppers into the oil several at a time without crowding the pan, you want each popper to have its own space. Fry until just golden, about 2 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Drain onto a paper towel and repeat with the remaining poppers.