Blackened fish is a Louisiana specialty that’s often drenched in butter to temper the heat of the spices. In this lightened version, just enough fat is used to keep the fish from sticking to the smoking-hot pan, and those bold flavors are complemented instead with a vibrant, vitamin-rich topping. This tropical salsa also pairs beautifully with any grilled or broiled seafood, chicken, or meat, and makes a festive dip for serving with low-fat chips. Serves 4. RECIPE HERE. – Susan Puckett
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced small
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced small
¾ cup halved or quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ cup chopped red onion
1 medium jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons blackened seasoning, Creole seasoning, or other paprika-based spice blend
1 teaspoon brown sugar
4 (5- to 7-ounce) salmon steaks, preferably skin-on
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (if needed)
1 lemon or lime, cut in wedges
Make the salsa: In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.
Prepare the fish: In a small bowl, mix together the seasoning and brown sugar. Set the fish flesh-side up on a plate and pat dry.
Brush the butter over the flesh side of the fish, sprinkle with the spice blend, and gently pat down so the spices adhere.
Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet or another heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. (It’s a good idea to turn on the exhaust fan if you have one.)
When the pan begins to smoke, add the fillets in a single layer, seasoned-side-down, and pour any remaining butter over the top. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the underside, begins to blacken.
Flip and cook until the skin becomes crispy and the flesh begins to separate when pinched, about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, adding a little oil if needed to prevent sticking. If it starts to burn, remove it from the burner and allow the fish to cook through with the residual heat.
Transfer to plates and serve with the salsa and lemon or lime wedges on the side.
Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.