Have your fried foods and a healthy diet, too

Fish tacos are extremely popular in coastal areas of Mexico, and it's no wonder.

The local catch of the day is battered, deep fried and served wrapped in corn tortillas along with a variety of salsas, chopped vegetables and crema, a rich Mexican version of sour cream.

If it weren't for the deep-frying, this would be a healthy meal. Fish, chopped tomatoes and onions, shredded cabbage, and fresh salsas are excellent choices for a healthy diet.

But don't give up the fish taco dream just yet. It's easy to clean up this dish for a healthy palate. The secret to this beer-battered fish taco recipe is a pan-frying technique that makes crunchy fish using only a fraction of the fat.

Cooking the fish in a nonstick skillet makes it possible to use a small amount of oil without having the pieces stick to the bottom. A well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet also works, though you might need to use a bit more oil.

Canola oil is best for the frying because it adds no perceptible flavor and has a high heat tolerance. Grape seed oil is another good choice for frying because it also has a high smoke point and adds little flavor.

For the fish, select any firm, mild-flavored fish, such as tilapia. Cut the fish into bite-size pieces and dip it in a spicy beer batter. The beer, common to fish and chips recipes, adds a malted flavor, and the carbonation keeps the coating light and airy.

Different styles of beer will add different characters to the batter, so choose one that suits your tastes. Darker beers tend to add more flavor. Don't use too light a beer or none of the flavor will come through.

Cooked the fish in two batches so that the pan doesn't get overcrowded. If the pieces are too close together they won't brown and crisp up as well.

It's important to pay close attention to the temperature of the pan, especially after the first batch is cooked. You may need to adjust the heat to prevent the fish from getting scorched.

The results should be golden-brown and crunchy fish pieces. Keep in mind that unlike deep-fried foods, these fish nuggets will get soggy rather quickly, so it's best to eat them right away. In a pinch, you can re-crisp the fish by baking in a 375 F oven for 20 minutes.

Soft corn tortillas are traditionally used for fish tacos, but you can use flour tortillas if you like. To warm the tortillas, wrap the whole stack in foil and place them in a 300 F oven for about 10 minutes.

As for the taco toppings, light sour cream makes a good substitute for the Mexican crema, and you can use just about any other condiments you like. Fresh or jarred salsas work, and chopped vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cabbage are nice, as well.

Canned whole black beans also make a tasty topping and add extra protein and fiber. Make sure to rinse the beans in a mesh stainer to wash away unwanted sodium that's in the canning liquid.

Fresh peach salsa is a delightful accompaniment for these tacos, especially in the summer when the fruit is at its best. It takes only a few minutes to prepare and adds a sweet-and-sour element. If you don't have peaches you can use diced nectarines, mango, or even watermelon.

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