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4 New Ways to Flavor Fish

Don't be intimidated by the thought of cooking fish: It's by far the easiest protein to make into a tasty, healthy meal. Armed with these simple tricks to amp up flavor, even the most novice chef can make a mouthwatering fish dish. Fresh salmon, tuna, red snapper, and halibut are my favorites, but you can also use these recipes to transform canned fish into a gourmet, healthy meal.

Marinade
Quentin Bacon

A simple marinade adds tons of flavor without excess calories. The fish in these tasty tacos is marinated in lime, cilantro, and spices—you'll never need to go to a Mexican restaurant to satisfy your fish taco craving again!

Fabulous Fish Tacos with Tequila-Lime Sauce and Pickled Slaw

Serves: 6

Ingredients for marinade:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 pounds white fish fillets, such as mahi-mahi, red snapper, or cod

Ingredients for slaw:
8 red or white radishes, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 head red cabbage, halved and thinly sliced crosswise (about 3 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Ingredients for sauce:
1/2 cup (4 ounces) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons good-quality tequila (you can substitute additional lime juice if you prefer)
1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro

Ingredients for tacos:
12 6-inch corn tortillas
2 limes, cut in wedges

Directions:
1. To make pickled slaw, whisk the sugar and apple cider together in a medium bowl. Add the radishes and cabbage, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
2. To marinate fish, whisk lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, cumin, cayenne, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add fish fillets and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours.
3. For sauce, whisk yogurt, tequila, lime zest and juice, and cilantro together in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.
4. Heat charcoal or gas grill to high heat following manufacturer's instructions, or heat a ridged cast iron grill pan to high heat. Use paper towels and tongs to grease grill's grates with remaining canola oil. Remove fish from marinade and grill without turning until firm and opaque throughout, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer fish to a plate and break it up into bite-sized pieces.
5. Stack tortillas and wrap in damp paper towels. Place on a plate and microwave in 10-second increments (about 30 seconds total), checking between intervals to see if they are warmed through and pliable.
6. To serve, divide fish among tortillas. Top with some pickled cabbage and radish slaw and serve with tequila sauce and fresh lime wedge.

Recipe adapted from Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai, Rodale Books, 2012

Photo credit: Quentin Bacon

Zesty Rub
Candice Kumai

To spice up a boring fillet, try rubbing it with a combination of citrus zest and herbs before baking in parchment paper. This delicious "wet" rub is packed with flavor and guaranteed to impress even the most skeptical fish-eaters.

Halibut en Papillote

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 part lime zest

1 part orange zest

1 part smoked paprika

1 part dried oregano
2 teaspoons orange juice

Sea salt
4 (4-ounce) halibut filets
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Fold four 10-inch pieces of parchment paper in half. Cut each parchment into half a heart, keeping the folded side intact, so that when it's unfolded it forms a full heart.
2. In a small bowl, combine first 6 ingredients to make the wet rub.
3. On one side of a heart-shaped parchment, place fillet and top with 1/4 of wet rub mixture.
4. Brush one edge of the parchment with egg wash. Fold the empty half of the parchment over fish. Starting at the top of the heart begin making folds along the edge, brushing the paper with egg wash each time it is folded to create a packet with fish enclosed. Each fold should overlap the previous one.
5. Place halibut packets on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.
6. Remove from oven. Using sharp scissors, cut an opening in the top of each packet, being extremely careful not to burn yourself on the steam. Fold the cut edges back to expose the fish. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cook Yourself Sexy by Candice Kumai, Rodale Books, 2012

Photo credit: Candice Kumai

Fresh Herbs
Candice Kumai

Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and tarragon, not only add a hearty dose of flavor to your fish, they're also packed with healthy antioxidants and vitamins. This lightened-up pesto, which is made with almonds and basil (no fattening cheese and pine nuts), pairs perfectly with any fish dish for a delicious taste without excess fat.

Skinny Almond Pesto

Makes: 1 to 1 1/2 cups pesto

Ingredients:
3 cups fresh basil leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:
1. Place basil, almonds, garlic, and sea salt in food processor and pulse to combine.
2. Once ingredients are somewhat mealy, gradually add in olive oil, processing until mixture is fully chopped but still has texture, about 1 minute. Pulse in lemon juice.
3. Store in a sealed storage container or jar for up to 1 week.

Simple Pantry Pasta with Tuna and Skinny Almond Pesto

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
1/2 box (8 ounces) linguine, cooked and cooled
1 can albacore tuna in olive oil, drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Skinny Almond Pesto
1 cup wild arugula 1/2 cup basil Lemon juice and zest Sea salt

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, toss cooked and cooled linguine with pesto and olive oil, then toss in canned tuna, breaking up tuna with a fork.
2. Toss all ingredients well to coat. Season with sea salt and lemon juice and zest to taste.
3. Top with wild arugula. Plate pasta by using tongs and twisting pasta to create height on the plate.
4. Finish plates with a few more arugula strands, fresh basil, and lemon zest.

Photo credit: Candice Kumai

"Cream" Sauce
Candice Kumai

My sneaky swap in this slimmed down "cream" sauce? I use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream to slash calories while keeping the decadent flavor.

Pan-Seared Salmon in Creamy Balsamic Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 shallots, thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 can (12 ounces) low-fat evaporated milk
1 (16-ounce) package linguine (gluten-free pastas work just as well!)
1 pound salmon fillets, portioned into 4 servings
Sea salt to taste

 2 cups arugula

 1/2 cup crushed hazelnuts (optional)

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon butter and shallots. Sweat shallots for approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook until brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add soy sauce and balsamic vinegar to pan and simmer over medium heat for a few minutes. Turn off heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and stir until fully emulsified. Using a fine sieve, strain sauce, discarding shallots and garlic. Set aside to cool.
3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add evaporated milk and reduce it by half. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.
4. While evaporated milk is reducing, cook linguine as directed on the package. Strain, shock with cold water, and set aside.
5. In a medium sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add remaining tablespoon of butter and salmon. Cook salmon in the hot pan for approximately 2 to 3 minutes and place into a 350-degree oven to finish for 5 to 6 minutes, or 7 to 8 minutes for well done.
6. To finish sauce, combine reduced evaporated milk with balsamic/soy sauce mixture. Whisk to combine, and season with sea salt.
7. To plate, lightly toss linguine in balsamic sauce. Lightly toss in arugula. Top with crushed hazelnuts, if using, and finally, seared salmon when ready.

Photo credit: Candice Kumai