Monday, February 22, 2010

Fish Tacos

I knew a few weeks ago that I would have last Friday off. I also knew a few weeks ago exactly what I’d do with my day of freedom: hit up Salumi’s. 
Mario Batalli’s dad, Armandino Batali, owns Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, a little deli in the Pioneer Square district offering top quality Italian meats and cheeses. Since they have especially limited hours (Tues-Friday, 11am-4pm), it’s virtually impossible to patronize if you work full-time on the other side of town. They have a few tables for eating in but the real attraction is their lunchtime sandwiches. I joined the long, snaking line around 11:15am, already late by local standards. After 40 minutes in the rain, I triumphantly left with one Salumi Muffo and one spicy pork & eggplant sandwich under my arm. Tristan was very lucky to have lunch delivered that day.

This longwinded account of last Friday’s lunch brings me to the topic of dinner that same night. My gut was leaden with meat and bread and nothing sounded good. I ended up roaming the market aimlessly, empty basket in hand, hoping for inspiration to strike. Then I saw these little hand-made, organic corn tortillas and it hit me. Fish tacos! Perfect.

I wasn’t actually exposed to fish tacos until later in life. During graduate school I began assisting cooking classes at PCC Natural Markets, and the first was “Baja Fresh” by Jenny Hurst. The tortilla soup and roasted tomatillo salsa were marvelous but what really blew my mind were the simple, baked fish tacos. After all these years, the thought of them still makes my mouth water. And after a gut-bomb-of-a-lunch, what could be more refreshing than chunks of flaky white fish, crunchy cabbage, diced avocado and radish slices all drizzled with a cooling citrus sauce? 

These are messy and delicious. Simple enough for a weekday meal but scrumptious enough for a dinner party.

Fish Tacos

A fresh mango salsa (like this one at Simply Recipes) and/or guacamole would pair beautifully with these tacos. Inspired by Jenny Hurst’s recipe from the Baja Fresh class at PCC.

1 ½ pounds firm white fish fillets, such as cod or halibut
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 rounded tablespoon finely minced cilantro
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
2 limes
8-10 small corn tortillas
Cooling Citrus Sauce (recipe follows)
Crumbled Cotija cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Rinse fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix oil, salt, chili powder and cilantro. Rub fish on all sides with oil/spice mixture; place in a baking dish or broiling pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

In a small bowl, mix shredded cabbage with carrots. Squeeze a little fresh lime juice from half a lime over the top, add a small pinch of salt and toss well.

Before assembling the tacos, warm the corn tortillas. There are many ways to do this: in the microwave (20 seconds on high heat), in a hot skillet, or wrap the entire stack in aluminum foil and heat in the oven along with the fish.

To assemble, break fish into chunks and place down the middle of each tortilla. Top with cabbage and drizzle generously with citrus sauce. Sprinkle with avocado chunks and cotija cheese (if using). Top with a few radish slices. Serve warm with lime wedges on the side.

Cooling Citrus Sauce

1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, or to taste
Pinch of salt

In a small bowl combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.