Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dry-Rubbed Salmon Tacos with Tomatillo-Avocado Slaw

A few years ago, I heard mention of fish tacos and was thoroughly unimpressed. Ick. Fish tacos? Bleh.

I grew up in a small town where the most exotic food was… embarrassingly… Italian. Seriously. I never tasted Chinese food until I was in college (again, small town) and this was some sort of chow mein which my roommates heated from a can; the real Chinese food finally came after I graduated from college, working in NYC. A Mexican restaurant did open during my last year of college and that was a fun discovery. My other must-eat cuisines, Indian, Thai, Greek, & Caribbean, weren’t discovered until years later. How deprived I was!!! :)

Tacos. They were supposed to be made of ground beef (or, in recent years, ground turkey) in soft corn tortillas, smothered in taco sauce, piled with shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce, and sour cream. My idea of comfort food! But fish? Uh-huh. Until a couple of years ago when I belonged to a cooking group and our Cinco de Mayo menu included fish tacos. Tilapia fillets were dredged in a flour, salt, and ground cumin mixture then sautéed. A fillet was then placed in a warm corn tortilla, covered with a piquant roasted tomatillo salsa, sprinkled with finely chopped sweet onion and chopped avocado, then rolled. Heaven! I went home that night and told Jack that I just had to make him that fish taco recipe. He wrinkled his nose. No thanks, he said. Well, in our house I cook and Jack eats. He doesn’t really have a say in what I make. I have to admit that he is a relatively adventurous eater, much more so than some of my friend’s husbands, and there have only been a half-dozen times in the past 24 years where he admitted that he would really appreciate it if I could refrain from making _________ in the future.

So I made the fish tacos anyway. And it was good. So good that this became one of our rare “repeater” recipes, prepared a couple of times a month during warmer weather.

I was flipping through April’s Food & Wine one recent afternoon and found a recipe for Salmon Tacos. This recipe didn’t appeal to me immediately since I think of salmon as having such a strong flavor that it wouldn’t work well with other traditional taco ingredients. But I was wrong. I just happened to have almost every ingredient on hand, and it was a warm spring day which meant that I wanted to grill dinner. Then “Dry-Rubbed Salmon Tacos with Tomatillo-Avocado Slaw”, it was!

This slightly out-of-focus photo does not do these tacos justice. I could have sat in my chair and happily eaten them all night long. The salmon was tender and sweet with a spicy crust, the slaw crunchy and tangy; there couldn’t be a more sublime pairing. I served the tacos with grilled roma tomatoes (sprinkled with the same spice mixture that was rubbed on the salmon and a little olive oil and chopped garlic) and a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Excellent, excellent, excellent dinner! I didn't have red cabbage for the slaw, so I used all Savoy, but other than adding some color, it's not really necessary.


Rebecca said...

Ditto everything you said - small town childhood, no foreign food at all, except my parents were a host family for a family from India, so I was actually exposed to real Indian food (although I don't know from what region). But my mother didn't even use fresh garlic in her own kitchen, let alone buy fresh fish. But I, too, and now intrigued by the idea of fish tacos in my old age when once I thought they sounded disgusting. This recipe sounds great!

Kitchen Queen Victoria said...


If you try the tacos, let me know what you think of them!

Man, you were way out of my league with hosting a family from India! But Mom, marrying an Italian, definitely had a fresh-garlic thing going... ;)