Beautiful and delicious, just like a summer meal should be.
I grew up imagining myself naturally skilled in a great number of things. Take cooking, for example. When I went to college, I knew only how to roast a chicken (which my mother insisted I learn, much to my chagrin – and to hers, when she couldn’t convince me to touch the thing raw). But somehow I still had the idea that I not only loved cooking, but was also tremendously gifted at it. I gradually figured out how to do basic things, like cook pasta or scramble eggs, and was so pleased with myself that I attempted making soup without a recipe. As I recall, I boiled pasta, carrots, and celery in a pot of water, all at the same time, and dumped in a bunch of unrelated spices at the end (I don’t think I knew about chicken stock at this point). When I served it to my then boyfriend, he kindly told me it was delicious (which it was not, in any sense of the word; it tasted exactly like what you would imagine mushy pasta, carrots, and celery in too much water would taste like). Since then, my cooking has improved in proportion to my humility and willingness to learn. I still love it, but I’m much more aware of the work and skill involved.
Once I began cooking for a family, everything changed again. Suddenly, nutrition took on a new importance. While I might be happy eating leftover cake for breakfast, it wasn’t really what I wanted my kids to learn. Coupling a concern for nutrition with a limited budget put me in a tough spot, one with which I imagine most home cooks are frustratingly familiar. Do you devote your entire life to making whole-grain-flax-seed-extra-fiber-plus crackers from scratch? Or do you spend eight million dollars on groceries so that some local cracker-craftsmen can make them for you? Or do you forget both concerns and go all out on TV dinners?
These fish tacos strike a great balance. They are quick to make, and all of the hot work is done outside. Here in Ohio, all of the produce involved (except the mango and lime) can be found locally, with unbeatable flavor. Add in that pretty much everyone agrees that fish is an excellent source of both lean protein and Omega-3s, and you’ve got yourself a win-win.
You can go with any flaky white fish here. Hake and pollock are generally fairly
sustainably-sourced, but I had trouble finding pollock. I found wild-caught hake at Trader Joe’s, and it wasn’t too expensive.
Here’s what you do:
Heat up your grill. Charcoal is preferable here, as most gas grills don’t get as hot. Go with what you’ve got, though; as you can see, our grill is hardly ideal.
Grilled corn is the perfect side dish for tacos. You simply peel the husks back and use them as a handle. They take about fifteen minutes on the grill, once it’s good and hot, and all you have to do is turn them a couple of times to get a nice char.
While the grill is heating and the corn cooks, peel and chop a half cup’s worth of mango. Add another half cup each chopped tomato and peach (I didn’t bother peeling the peach). I used the delicious Red Haven peaches and orange romas I found at our farmers’ market, but the most important thing is that all three fruits be good and ripe. You want them soft, sweet, and juicy, not hard and tasteless. Add a quarter cup chopped red bell pepper, and then mince together a quarter cup of onion with a clove of garlic and a hot pepper or two (seeds scraped out). The serrano pepper from my garden worked beautifully, but jalapenos are easier to find and would work well, too.
Mix it all up in a bowl with the juice of half a lime, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, a handful of roughly chopped cilantro, and a few good shakes of salt.
When you’re ready to grill the fish, season it well with salt and pepper and place it on the shiny side of a sheet of aluminum foil. This keeps it from sticking until it’s seared well enough to hold together. Place the foil on the grill, and cover it. Over high heat, it won’t take more than two or three minutes for the underside to brown. As soon as everything but the very top of the fillets are opaque, grab the foil and use it to flip the fish over. Cook for another minute, then use a metal spatula to flip once more so you get nice grill marks on both sides of the fish.
Scoop some Greek yogurt or sour cream into a bowl. Greek yogurt substitutes nicely for sour cream in just about any recipe, plus it makes me feel better about myself because I imagine I’m getting healthy mama points. Or something. Honestly, I usually just use regular old yogurt because I’m lazy, but it is substantially runnier. You can strain it to make your own Greek-style yogurt if you want.
Place corn tortillas under a couple damp paper towels on a plate and wrap the whole thing in plastic. Both the tortillas and the yogurt go in the microwave for about a minute. Separate the fish with a fork, tasting to see if it needs more salt. Place a few pieces of fish into a tortilla, spoon on some salsa, and drizzle with a bit of warm greek yogurt. Add a small handful of greens. Whatever you have will work, but something with a bit of flavor is extra nice; I used a mix of baby arugula, endive, radicchio, and dandelion greens from my garden. A crumble of sharp white cheddar like Dubliner takes it from delicious to sublime.
Smear the corn with butter (if you want a special treat, use Kerrygold butter; their cows are grass-fed, and the sweetness of the butter is unbeatable) and sprinkle with kosher salt. To make a more substantial meal, serve with cilantro rice or a side-salad. We adults ate two or three tacos each; the kids had plates of fish and scraped-off corn with a spoonful of salsa.[panel]Here’s the list (to feed four):
For the corn:
4 ears corn
Butter, such as Kerrygold
For the fish:
1 ¼ lb flaky white fish, like hake or pollock
Salt and pepper to taste
For the salsa:
½ cup mango, chopped
½ cup peach, chopped
½ cup tomato, chopped
¼ cup onion, minced
¼ cup red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeds scraped out and flesh minced (2 if you like things extra spicy)
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of ½ lime
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
Sharp white cheddar, like Dubliner[/panel]