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posted: 7/29/2014 6:00 AM

Bulking up the classic BLT without adding fat

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  • Lightly breaded tilapia boosts the flavor of a BLT without much added fat.

      Lightly breaded tilapia boosts the flavor of a BLT without much added fat.
    Associated Press

  • Tuck lightly breaded tilapia into a BLT pita for added flavor without much added fat.

      Tuck lightly breaded tilapia into a BLT pita for added flavor without much added fat.
    Associated Press

 
By Sara Moulton
Associated Press

In terms of flavor and texture, it's hard to beat a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, reportedly one of the most popular sandwiches in America. Trouble is, it's not exactly filling.

I've always thought of the BLT as an air sandwich; it packs plenty of calories but demonstrates very little staying power. So here I've rejiggered the traditional recipe in ways that simultaneously slim it down and bulk it up.

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The best news, to start, is that a little bacon goes a long way. I've used the real stuff -- no turkey bacon, please -- but less than usual, just a slice per sandwich. Meanwhile, I've amped up the protein with a small piece of crispy breaded tilapia. A sustainable fish choice, tilapia has a mild flavor with a firm texture, which keeps it from falling apart in the sandwich. But any firm-fleshed fish will do.

The tilapia is coated in flour that's been seasoned with smoked paprika, which nicely echoes the bacon's smokiness. The crunchiness comes in when the fish is dipped in egg whites and coated in panko breadcrumbs (everyone's favorite breadcrumb these days). The fish then is sauteed in a skillet and finished in the oven, a process requiring less oil than if it was cooked from start to finish on top of the stove.

I've flavored the mayo with lemon and fresh basil. Basil and tomato go together like love and marriage. And speaking of tomatoes, now is the time to splurge on the beefsteak heirloom tomatoes that may well be gracing your local farmers market. A properly grown, fully ripe tomato in season is one of the pleasures that make life worth living.

The standard lettuce of choice for a BLT is romaine, which I like for its crunch. But you certainly could swap it out for spinach or arugula. Finally, I've sliced the pita pockets horizontally to form two thin rounds. This little trick helps to cut back the usual amount of bread in a BLT. You end up eating one six-inch pita instead of two slices of bread.

• Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."

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