Food & Dining

Bulk up the classic BLT without adding fat

This is the tilapia BLT pita pockets.
This is the tilapia BLT pita pockets. Associated Press

In terms of flavor and texture, it's hard to beat a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, 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.

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.

I've flavored the mayo with lemon and fresh basil. 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.

What you need:

  • Four slices bacon.|

  • Half a cup packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped.

  • Half a cup light mayonnaise.

  • Four teaspoons lemon juice.

  • Four small tilapia fillets (about 2.5 ounces each).

  • Salt and ground black pepper.

  • Two tablespoons all-purpose flour.

  • 1.5 teaspoons smoked paprika.

  • Three-quarters of a cup panko breadcrumbs.

  • Two large egg whites.

  • 2.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided.

  • Four small whole-wheat pita pockets, halved to form eight rounds.

  • One beefsteak tomato, sliced 1/3 inch thick.

  • Two large romaine lettuce leaves, halved crosswise.

In a medium skillet over medium, cook the bacon until crisp, then transfer to paper towels to drain. In a small bowl stir together the basil, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Set aside.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. On a sheet of kitchen parchment, combine the flour with the paprika. On a second sheet of parchment, spread the panko. In a shallow dish, lightly beat the egg whites. Coat the fish first in the flour mixture, then dip it in the egg whites, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the panko, making sure the fish is well coated.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 1.5 tablespoons of the oil. Add the fish and cook until lightly browned on the bottom, about two minutes. Turn the fish, add the remaining oil and cook until golden on the second side, about another two minutes.

Transfer the fillets to one end of the prepared baking sheet. Wrap the pita rounds in foil and place them at the other end of the baking sheet. Bake for 4 to five minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.

To serve, spread some of the basil mayonnaise on the cut sides of the pita rounds. Top four of the rounds with a piece of bacon, broken in half, a piece of fish, followed by some sliced tomatoes, a piece of lettuce and the second pita round, mayonnaise side down.

Start to finish: 35 minutes.

Servings: Four.

Nutrition information per serving: 550 calories; 280 calories from fat (51 percent of total calories); 31 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 4 g protein; 890 mg sodium.