Mediterranean inspired fish tacos

February 10, 2011 § 11 Comments

I know I have a tendency to get really excited about food. I also know I’m not the only one. So friends, prepare to get worked into a tizzy because these fish tacos are worth absolutely every joule of excited energy you could possibly muster and direct at them. Seriously, I feel slightly ridiculous, but I’m downright giddy over them (also rendering me somewhat incoherent, I’m afraid, so bear with me while I gush). And to think, I almost didn’t even make them because I was feeling lazy (horrors!). Now I want to eat them every day!  Well, at least for the next couple of weeks.

Sure, fish tacos, as a general rule, conjure up visions of rickety trucks serving lines of happy sun bleached beach bums whose friends are splashing in the surf in the background, not images of icy snowbanks up to your nose and bleak bare branches against a steel sky. However, these tacos manage to vibrate with bright colorful flavors even while using pretty much all seasonally winter ingredients. They are just so darn fresh tasting! The amazing meyer lemon and green olive salsa is as juicy and zippy as any salsa fresca. The cabbage and fennel slaw, unburdened by mayo, is light and crunchy. And there’s no gummy, oily, deep-fried fish here, just flaky pan seared fish accented with the spicy smokiness of paprika and fragrance of thyme.

A dollop of plain yogurt (rather than sour cream – in keeping with some of the Mediterranean flair of the ingredients) and soft flour tortillas (not in keeping with the Mediterranean flair!) pull everything together into juicy, messy, absolutely delectable packages. And don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list. Once you start chopping everything comes together in a flash.

Mediterranean inspired fish tacos (Serves 4) (inspired by Suzanne Goin’s grilled halibut with lemon and olive salsa)

  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons honey, divided
  • 2 meyer lemons (these are sweeter and thinner skinned – and a warmer shade of yellow – than regular lemons, and they are scrumptious! I’m swiftly developing a new obsession with them)
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives (of your favorite variety), chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
  • sea salt
  • 1 1/2 pound tilapia or flounder fillets (you can use really any white fish – look especially for wild/locally/sustainably caught)
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • plain yogurt, for serving
  • 8 flour tortillas, for serving
  1. First make the lemon-olive salsa. Stir together the red onion with 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar. Let this sit while you chop the lemons. Remove the ends from each of the meyer lemons, then dice them into small cubes (about 1/8 inch), peel and all. But take out any seeds! When this is finished, whisk 2 tsp. honey and a pinch of salt into the onions. Next whisk in about 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir in the diced meyer lemons, the chopped olives, and the cilantro, and set aside.
  2. Trim the fennel bulb and thinly slice it. Whisk together 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar, 1 tsp. honey, 2 tsp. mustard, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. In a large bowl toss the shredded cabbage and the sliced fennel with this dressing. Set aside.
  3. Rub one side of your fish fillets with the hot paprika and thyme and sprinkle them with some salt and fresh ground pepper. Let them sit 5 minutes. Then, heat about 1-2 Tbs. olive oil in a large frying pan until it is nearly smoking. Add the fish, spiced side down, and fry until just cooked through and flaky.
  4. Assemble the tacos by filling a tortilla with a couple chunks of fish, a scoop of the cabbage-fennel slaw and a scoop of lemon-olive salsa. Top with a dollop of plain yogurt (and if you happen to have an avocado around, a few slices on a taco go quite nicely). Enjoy!

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