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With these simple, quick fish tacos, “summer eating does not get any better”

“My” fish tacos became a supper staple back in 2007, the first year I spent with my (now) husband, Tom, and his daughter, Brinkley.

The summer of that year, the three of us moved down to the beach just days after Brinkley’s junior year of high school ended, and I overzealously took on the job of chief cook  though I really was not qualified. 

With no central air conditioning, no Wi-Fi, no television and only one bathroom, let’s just say the three of us spent lots of quality time together in our tiny cottage by the bay. I put lots of hours and effort into having something tasty and healthy for my new little family at the end of each day, but Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa — this recipe given to me by my friend and former roommate, Alicia — was the first big hit of the summer.

Alicia is a talented home cook, and over the twenty-plus years I have known her, she has given me some of my most treasured recipes and helped me become much more competent in the kitchen.   

Fish tacos are for anytime of the year, and they are a staple on the menus of most every beach cafe and restaurant around here, especially those you can get to by boat. But like margaritas and watermelon, fish tacos hit the spot even more once the summer heat is here to stay. If made properly, they are nourishing and clean with layers of flavor that leave you utterly satisfied. Warm fish wrapped in soft tortillas with spicy, sweet, crunchy, and creamy toppings; summer eating does not get any better. 


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Fresh fish is easy to come by where I live, with right-off-the-boat red snapper, cobia, grouper and so many other tasty varieties available. Make fish tacos with whatever is your favorite (and is the freshest), and they will most certainly be delicious.       

But back to the summer of 2007, when Tom, Brinkley and I had moved down to the cottage, and we ate our evening meals on the screened porch, seated around our aluminum pedestal style picnic table, circa 1972, in one of four matching vinyl strapped chairs (all miraculously still holding up fine to this day). There was a busy rhythm to our days, starting with the hustle and bustle of making breakfast and packing lunches. But suppertime on the porch was different. It was calm and slow, and we shared about our day while watching lightning bugs dart around the yard. 

In the background, we had the music of the ceiling fan: The lapping whir of it spinning at full speed, its short chain rhythmically tapping out time on its metal base. Over the course of our meal, the fan provided a sort of syncopated backbeat to the croaky, chirping mating calls of all the little spring peepers, our adorable, roughly two-inch long frogs that call this area home. Those little guys would all go off at once as though being waved in by an orchestra conductor. Soon the creaky-clicky, heavy vibrato of cicadas would add their dissonant harmonies to the mix.

It was a spectacular production, and the perfect backdrop to our summer nights eating our absolute favorite fish tacos.   

Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh fish filets, washed and patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & Pepper

2 to 3 teaspoons cumin

Garlic — fresh, bottled or powdered

4 tablespoons mayonaise 

2 to 3 limes

2 to 3 cups cabbage slaw mix, pre-packaged or prepared

1/4 small red onion, sliced wafer thin (or green onions)

Soft tortillas of choice, heated just before serving

Optional: fresh cilantro, chopped; cayenne pepper or additional chopped jalapeños; sour cream and/or any additional taco ingredients you like. 

 

 

Mango Salsa

Fresh mango, perfectly ripe and chopped (can substitute pineapple or peaches)

Tomato, chopped

Avocado, chopped

1/2 to 1 fresh lime, juiced, plus a little zest

Jalapeño pepper, deseeded and diced

1/4 small purple onion or green onions, chopped

Swirl of olive oil

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Salt & pepper

 

Directions

  1. Make Cabbage Slaw: If you do not have a pre-made mix, in a bowl large enough to hold all, combine finely shredded cabbage, carrot and a little onion, plus any on-hand slaw ingredients you would like to add.

  2. Dress with a dollop of mayo (or a combo of sour cream and mayo) and the juice from 1/2 of lime, an optional swirl of olive oil and salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

  3. Make Mango Salsa: Combine all ingredients, toss gently, cover, and refrigerate. **If you have extra avocado on hand, smash one with a fork to a guacamole consistency and gently incorporate into Mango Salsa or Cabbage Slaw.

  4. Prepare fish: Wash and dry fish filets and cut into 3/4” slices and place in bowl.

  5. Toss with olive oil, juice of one lime, cumin, salt and pepper. 

  6. Place each piece — separate and not touching  on a grill pan if cooking on the grill or on a lined baking sheet if using the oven. Make sure you can see the cumin on the fish. Use a heavy hand with both salt and cumin.    

  7. Whatever method you choose, use medium-high to high heat. You want little crispy edges, if possible.

  8. The fish should cook very fast — 4 to 6 minutes. It is done when it flakes with a fork. Do not overcook! 

  9. Serve immediately.  

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