Fish tacos hit my radar in the late ’80s, popping up in beachside spots in San Diego. Popular on the West Coast, I couldn’t imagine them finding a home here in the Midwest.

How times have changed. Fish tacos are, if not everywhere, then almost everywhere.

Much as I love them today, I’m not a big fan of the battered, deep-fried version of fish that serves as the mainstay for most of these tacos.

Why would you drop what amounts to delicate fish into a vat of hot oil? Wouldn’t pan-fried fish, sans batter, be better?

Turns out there’s yet another alternative: grilled. In this recipe, it’s tilapia, but it could be walleye or any mild-flavored fish — or even shrimp, which I have to say makes a fine substitute.

Whichever is used, a light dusting of spices makes a difference before the protein is finished over a hot fire, then topped with ranch dressing (which predates the ’80s by more than a decade) and a radicchio slaw.

You can grill this slaw (radicchio, beet and pineapple), though I wondered, as I ran outside and in several times while cooking, why I took this step when the ungrilled version tastes just fine. My advice: Grilled slaw is best done in advance, and if you lack time, prep it without the heat.

These are my kind of recipes, with adaptability built in.


Lee Svitak Dean can be reached at Follow her at @StribTaste.