SOMEWHERE in my mid-twenties a surfer boyfriend introduced me to he and his buddies’ Mexico surf trip staple, the fish taco, and this dee-lish meal-in-one permanently settled in my fave food archive. Fish tacos say travel and summer to me, and provide an instant holiday fiesta in my mouth whenever I eat them. Infinite in variety, the fish taco combines the best of fresh wherever you are—Hawaii, Mexico, the Pacific Northwest. I’m not talkin’ bout those insipid facsimiles you get at chain taco stands, with a floppy fish stick—please!—enclosed inside a soggy tortilla, garnished with unripe tomatoes and mayonnaise. I’m referring to the fresh corn tortilla bursting with seasoned fish, sautéed veggies or imaginative salad, and garnished with a chunky salsa.
Mexican inspired tacos might include snapper quick grilled in olive oil, with cumin, cayenne, and coriander and then flaked into luscious chunks. Julienned fresh red and green peppers, along with slivers of onion sautéed with a little salt and pepper can accompany the fish. Top with a just-made pico de gallo. Don’t stint on the extra cilantro and a dusting of cotija cheese.
Island style fish tacos explode with tropical fishes such as mahi-mahi, ono, or ahi. Grilling the fish is the way to go, after a good soak in a marinade of sesame oil, garlic, ginger, tamari, and lime. Asian inspired flavors beg a fresh Japanese cucumber and fruit salsa—imagine pineapple, mango, or papaya with minced onion and cilantro. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and red tinged Haleakala sea salt.
Coming home to the Northwest, a summer fish taco feast could include salmon, steelhead, or sturgeon. In line with seasonality, I like these firmer fish barbequed—not too well done!—with fresh herbs from the garden and a squeeze of lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Sautee up a batch of kale, garlic, and capers and top with a chiffonade of basil and Italian parsley. Or try a raw chop of mizuna and garden-harvested salad greens and a chipotle kissed apple salsa. Top generously with cilantro or Italian parsley and skip the cheese—these flavoricious tacos don’t need it!
Rice and a slaw or simple salad are great accompaniments to fish tacos, and I always prefer to use corn tortillas. Get creative and use shrimp or crab instead of fish. Possibilities of veg combos are endless, and really any fish lends itself to the taco form. Summer anyone?
Sensational Summer Salsas!
Fresh Apple Salsa
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped canned chipotles
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotles
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt, as needed
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
kosher salt, to taste
2 medium apples, one red and one green. Whisk together vinegar, lime juice, adobo sauce, and honey. Toss with chopped ingredients, adding the apples just before serving.
1 small japanese cucumber, peeled and chopped
½ cup diced jicama (or more if you love it)
1 med Maui onion, minced
1 or 2 large minced jalepenos
2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1 large mango, diced (pineapple works when mango isn’t in season, or papaya)
chunks of fresh, creamy Maui avocado
squeeze of fresh lime juice
Chop, mix, taste, serve.
Pico de Gallo
2 mangoes or papaya
4 cups watermelon
6 limes, juiced
pico de gallo powdered seasoning (or a mix of cayenne, chili powder, and salt—to taste)
Chop, mix, serve. This is great as a salad on it’s own too. For salsa make the chop a little finer.