Enjoy the Pacific Northwest’s harvest in tacos and wraps

Serve these grilled fish tacos with avocado slices, shredded red cabbage, radish sprouts and slices in a corn tortilla. Top each taco with lemony tartar sauce and fresh salsa. (Jan Roberts-Dominguez/For The Herald)

Serve these grilled fish tacos with avocado slices, shredded red cabbage, radish sprouts and slices in a corn tortilla. Top each taco with lemony tartar sauce and fresh salsa. (Jan Roberts-Dominguez/For The Herald)

Right now the Northwest fields are bursting into ripeness: Tender carrots; young, crisp radishes; big, juicy onions; fresh spring leeks and dozens of fresh herbs and salad greens. Bringing this bounty to the dining table is easy, producing summer fare options that are simple-yet-elegant, light, colorful and delicious.

In other words, fish tacos and wraps. Snazzier than a sandwich — but with the same convenience and versatility — these recipes are designed for optimum delight. It’s the best of the harvest, teamed up with fresh fish for a variety of different adventures in taste.

I’m sharing with you two fish taco samplers. As a food phenomenon, they first got noticed along the coast of the Sea of Cortez many years ago where they were a popular street snack. Once they established a beachhead in San Diego, they actually became a fast-food phenomenon.

Typically made with battered, deep-fried fish (junky, but delicious!), the tacos have morphed into something vividly light and flavorful, with the use of very fresh fish that skips the batter coating and is instead grilled over a smoky flame.

The lamb and chicken wraps even make perfect portable fare. The meats can either be grilled at the picnic site, or grilled the day before, refrigerated and served cold.

Grilled fish tacos with lemony tarter sauce

I’ve already pulled this recipe out for three deck dinners this summer and wowed my guests each time. Southwest cuisine expert Rick Bayless is behind the simple marinade I use on the fish. Once grilled, the fish is broken into chunks and piled onto the corn tortillas, along with shredded red cabbage, green onion, avocado and radish sprouts. Then, for a truly decadent topper, drizzle on some of my homemade tarter sauce, punctuated by chopped egg, pickle relish and plenty of fresh lemons or limes in the form of juice and zest. It’s really fresh and delicious.

For the marinade:

⅓ cup coarsely chopped yellow onion

3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon cumin, preferably freshly ground

½ teaspoon salt

For the tacos:

4 fish fillets (halibut, sea bass, snapper, cod, mahi mahi or salmon), about 1½ to 2 pounds total

Olive oil for brushing

Radish sprouts

Shredded red cabbage

Chopped green onion

Ripe avocado slices

Lemony tarter sauce (recipe follows)


12 6-inch corn tortillas

In a food processor or blender, puree the onion, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, cumin and teaspoon salt. Place the fish fillets in a baking dish or resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over the fish, making sure it’s well covered with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 8 hours.

Remove the fish from the marinade and gently shake off the excess. Have the grill well-heated and the grate you are cooking the fish on well-oiled. Grill for about 10 minutes over medium-hot gas or coals, turning once halfway through the cooking time, until the fish is lightly browned, cooked through and almost flaking.

Note: Depending on the width of your grill’s cooking grate, you may need to use a specially designed grate to keep the fish from falling apart.

Remove the fish to a platter, then break it into large pieces. Set the fish on the table, along with the radish sprouts, cabbage, green onion, avocado, tarter sauce and salsa. When everyone is ready to eat, microwave the tortillas until they are warm and soft. Since these are fairly juicy, I suggest that you double up on the tortillas. Makes 12 tacos (4 to 6 servings).

Lemony tarter sauce: In a medium bowl, combine 1½ cups mayonnaise, 3 peeled and chopped hard cooked eggs, ¼ cup minced yellow onion, ¼ cup dill pickle relish, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Makes 2½ cups.

Grilled halibut tacos with avocado-habanero sauce

1 pound halibut fillets

1 bunch of green onions, washed and trimmed of their roots and the upper third of the dark green portion

Olive oil

Lemon pepper seasoning

12 6-inch corn tortillas

1 cup shredded or finely chopped green cabbage

Avocado-habanero sauce (recipe follows)

Spray a grill or broiling pan with non-stick pan coating. Brush the halibut and green onions with olive oil. Season the halibut with the lemon pepper seasoning. Grill the fish and green onions over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, turning once, or until the fillets are white throughout and flaky. Alternatively, broil several inches away below the heat source in your oven.

The onions may be done earlier than the fish, so keep an eye on them as they cook and act accordingly.

Makes 12 tacos (4 to 6 servings). For each plate, divide ¼ of the halibut among 3 of the corn tortillas that have been steamed or microwaved to soften. Then top each tortilla with a heaping tablespoon of the cabbage, 1 or 2 of the grilled green onions, and a healthy spoonful of the avocado-habanero sauce.

Avocado-habanero sauce: In food processor or blender combine 1 very ripe peeled and seeded avocado, 2 coarsely chopped green onions, 2 coarsely chopped cloves of garlic, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup sour cream, 1 to 2 teaspoons green habanero sauce (available where other hot pepper sauces, such as Tabasco, are sold), 2 teaspoons cider or wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon lemon pepper. Add salt to taste.

Grilled lamb wrap-up with fresh vegetable and yogurt sauce

This is delicious with lamb, of course, but alternatively, use beef, pork or chicken.

2/3 cup soy sauce

5 tablespoons water

5 tablespoons vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon Chinese-style mustard powder

1-1/4 teaspoons Chinese-style 5-spice

3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, lightly crushed

3 pounds lamb (shoulder roast), trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (alternatively, use beef or pork)

6 rounds of Greek flat bread

2-3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

Vegetable and yogurt sauce (recipe follows)

In small bowl, combine soy sauce, water, vinegar, garlic, ginger, cumin, mustard, Chinese 5-spice and red pepper flakes. Place the lamb cubes in a resealable plastic bag, then pour on all but 1/4 cup of the marinade. Marinate the lamb for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Thread the lamb pieces onto bamboo or metal skewers. Grill the lamb over hot coals for about 12 minutes, or until done, turning several times. Alternatively, broil the meat 4-inches from heating element in the oven.

When serving, place a round of Greek flat bread on each plate, arrange several slices of tomato down the center, then top with a skewer of the lamb. Top with the vegetable and yogurt sauce. To eat, roll the bread around the filling and pick it up with your hands. It is slightly sloppy, so have extra napkins in reserve. Makes 6 servings.

Vegetable and yogurt sauce: In a bowl, combine 2 cups peeled and finely chopped cucumber, 1 cup shredded carrot and 1/2 cup chopped green onion. Pour the reserved 1/4 cup of lamb marinade over the vegetables, toss well to coat, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, drain the marinade off the vegetables, then stir in 1 cup of plain yogurt and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Note: Do not use any of the marinade that has been in contact with the raw meat.

Grilled chicken with fresh salsa wrap-up

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon minced cilantro

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup olive oil

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut in 1-inch chunks

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in 1-inch chunks

6 to 12 flour tortillas

Salsa (see note)

Grated cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Taco sauce

1 to 2 avocados, peeled, seeded and cubed

In small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, ketchup, chili powder, cilantro, salt and cumin. Whisk in oil. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag. Add the marinade, then seal the bag and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours, turning the bag occasionally so the meat stays evenly coated.

Thread chicken onto bamboo or metal skewers. Grill over hot coals, turning several times, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked; remove from grill to heated platter.

Heat the flour tortillas one at a time in an ungreased skillet over medium high heat for about 5 seconds, turn, sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese, and continue heating another 10 seconds or so, just to begin melting the cheese.

Serve each tortilla with a skewer of chicken on top. Top with the fresh salsa, sour cream, taco sauce and avocados. To eat, roll the tortilla around the filling and serve. Additional tortillas may be prepared in the same fashion for those still hungry, using the remaining salsa, sour cream and avocados.

Note: It’s perfectly OK to start with 3 cups of store-bought salsa, to which you should stir in 2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack or sharp cheddar cheese. But if you want to make your own, here’s a recipe.

Fresh salsa: Combine the following vegetables, all finely chopped: 2 Roma tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1 bell pepper, 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, 1 stalk celery, 1/2 large yellow onion. Stir in 2 cups shredded cheese (Monterey jack or sharp cheddar), 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Makes 6 cups salsa.

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