Fish tacos, which originated on the West Coast, are now firmly established in Maine and elsewhere on the East Coast. I love this meal, which combines rich, crispy fried fish and crunchy slivered cabbage, encasing them in a soft, warmed corn tortilla, topping them with good salsa (homemade or good quality store-bought) and accompanying them with a side of flavorful “never-fried” black beans.

SPICY FISH SOFT TACOS

You can use grilled fish when the weather is warmer, but for now, I recommend this shallow-frying cooking method. Add more toppings if you want, such as sliced olives, diced ripe avocado or sour cream whisked with lime juice.

Serves 4

½ cup all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons chili powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt, plus additional for sprinkling

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ cup whole milk

1 pound haddock or other firm white-fleshed fish fillet, cut across the grain into ½-inch strips

¼ cup vegetable oil

12 corn tortillas

2 cups shredded green cabbage

½ cup cilantro sprigs

Lime wedges

Good quality chunky salsa

Spicy hot sauce, such as Frank’s

Combine flour, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Pour milk into another dish. Dip the fish in the milk, then dredge in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers and is about to smoke. Place some fish strips in the oil, without crowding the pan, and cook until deep golden brown on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn with tongs and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining fish.

Meanwhile, warm tortillas one at a time on an open gas burner until lightly charred, or heat in a microwave.

To serve, heap the fish and toppings in the tortillas and eat with your hands. Serve black beans on the side.

‘NEVER-FRIED’ BLACK BEANS

Traditional refried beans are cooked with lard – tasty, but not as healthy as these beans, which are wonderful even without the added fat.

Serves 4

2 cups cooked and drained black beans

½ cup coarsely chopped red onion

1 pickled jalapeño, coarsely chopped

1½ teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine beans, onion, jalapeño, chili powder, cumin and vinegar in a food processor. Pulse to make a coarse puree, adding a tablespoon or 2 of warm water if necessary to make a slightly soupy texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a saucepan and heat gently, stirring often, or heat in a microwave.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny


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