BY SARA MOULTON
---- — Mexican cuisine has been popular for a long time, but my recent travels around our country have persuaded me that fish tacos are big now in a way they never were before.
Traditional fish tacos consist of battered fish topped with shredded cabbage, a drizzle of citrus mayo, all wrapped in a corn tortilla.
These days the fish might be grilled rather than battered and fried. Sometimes it’s served on flour tortillas, sometimes on corn tortillas.
My version is light on calories, but heavy on flavor. The fish is lightly-floured and sauteed rather than deep-fried. The citrus mayonnaise sauce went bye-bye in favor of a puree of avocado and buttermilk. The avocado contains healthy fat, and the buttermilk is as lean as skim milk, but much tastier.
Fans of chilies will love the sliced jalapeno garnish. I think the cilantro is key, too, but if you were born with the anti-cilantro gene (a real thing!), you can swap in basil instead. Finally, those of you who worry that corn tortillas are high in calories can relax; two 6-inch corn tortillas, softened up and toasted without oil in a dry skillet, weigh in at just 80 calories.
Healthy Fish Tacos with Buttermilk Avocado Puree
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1 large Hass avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into eighths
1/3 c. buttermilk
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
3 c. shredded Napa cabbage
11/2 c. coarsely grated carrot
1 c. coarsely grated radishes
1/4 c. white wine or cider vinegar
1/4 t. sugar, or to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into 8 equal pieces
Whole-wheat flour, for coating the fish
3 T. vegetable oil
Eight 6-inch corn tortillas
Sliced fresh jalapeno peppers, to serve
Chopped fresh cilantro, to serve
Heat the oven to 200° F. In a food processor, combine the avocado, buttermilk, 1 clove of garlic, lime juice and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, then set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the cabbage, remaining garlic, carrot, radishes, vinegar, sugar, lime zest and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Set aside.
Heat a heavy skillet (such as cast-iron or stainless steel, but not nonstick) over medium heat. One at a time, place the tortillas in the skillet and toast for about 30 seconds per side. As the tortillas are toasted, stack them on a sheet of foil. Wrap the foil around the tortillas, then place them in the over to keep warm.
In a pie plate or other wide, shallow bowl, combine about 1 cup of flour with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. One at a time, dredge each piece of fish through the flour until coated evenly. Shake off any excess.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high. Add half of the fish to the pan and cook, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes a side. Transfer to an oven-safe plate and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and fish.
To serve, top each tortilla with a bit of the avocado puree, then a piece of fish. Drain the cabbage mixture, then mound some of that over each portion. Serve with jalapeno slices and cilantro on the side.
Nutrition information per serving: 500 calories; 190 calories from fat (38 percent of total calories); 22 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 51 g carbohydrate; 10 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 31 g protein; 370 mg sodium.