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. 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.
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
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
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.