You’ve got to hand it to Ina Garten. You might have thought that Tacos were out of her wheelhouse. But no. This recipe, from her TV series “Cook Like a Pro”, was served up on a recent program and labelled “Weeknight Dinners”. It’s that alright: An amazingly easy way to put something really special on your table any weeknight you choose. I liked it so much I served it at a weeknight dinner party to much applause. They’re only two minor problems with this particular recipe: It’s a mess on a plate and you need to find perfect avocados. The first issue is hardly one at all unless you obsessively photograph your food (like I do) and the second is relatively easy to overcome.
The Fish taco is a perennial favorite of mine. It’s practically the first thing I eat when I go to California. The fish used in its most famous versions is white-fleshed and mild. Snapper, mahi mahi, grouper, flounder, halibut, cod are the fish of choice. (To make sure of their sustainability, check with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s https://www.seafoodwatch.org/ first.) Salmon is hardly traditional but that may be a feature of the fact that Salmon isn’t one of the 850 fishes found in the waters of Baja California where the fish taco was invented. Salmon, however, is a really good choice, especially here where its flavor is a match to the spicy, smoky chipotle chili mix Ina uses to season the fish. The other ingredients are far more familiar to Fish Taco fans: Cabbage slaw and avocado and plenty of lime.
Ahh, the avocado! It’s so prevalent here in New York, there was a mass panic when the idea that the Mexican border might be summarily closed down blocking the beloved fruit from the tops of endless slices of toast. It wasn’t and, I’m sure much to the glee of food merchants, it shot up in price. Still it’s a remarkable bargain. A third of an avocado has 80 calories and it’s nutrient-dense with almost 20 vitamins and minerals. It’s also heart-healthy with good fat! That may explain its reputation for somehow being full of calories. That, I am happy to tell you, is bunk. That 1/3 of avocado reference above contains 80 calories.
Back to the perfect avocado. Did you know that avocados are never ripe when harvested? The California Avocado Commission (www.californiaavocado.com) is a believer in natural ripening: That is keeping the fruit at room temperature where they ripen in two or three days. The one technique you’ll find if you do any research on fast ripening is using the microwave. This gives the California Avocado Commission the vapors. “The microwave may soften the flesh of the fruit a little which may make it ‘seem’ ripe, but it isn’t. The avocado will taste unripe and won’t have the creaminess or buttery, nutty flavor…. Ripening avocados is a process best left to Mother Nature’s time line.” I had an opposite problem.
We’ve been eating them so often, that I just buy a couple and leave them on the kitchen counter. The problem I had was that I would let them go past their prime. Then my friend Pamela told me that the minute her avocados feel the least bit ripe, she puts them into the refrigerator. This stops the ripening process. I had done that to the avocados I wanted to serve with Ina’s Salmon Tacos. But I grew increasingly concerned that they’d been in there too long. I needed to find ripe replacements. Here’s a tip for New Yorkers. The avocados on your local pushcart vegetable stand are likely perfectly ripe. These vendors make their living selling produce that is on the brink which is why it’s priced so well. And it’s also why they’re the perfect places to buy last minute avocados. For non-New Yorkers, asking the produce manager in your food store if he has any in the back of the store may yield a ripened avocado.
For her Roasted Salmon Tacos, Ina makes a rough mash of the avocado adding salt, pepper and a little Sriracha. I simply sectioned the avocado and let the guests drizzle on what they wanted. The cabbage slaw is a snap—especially if you use the already-been-shredded kind from the supermarket. The English cucumber is easily de-seeded using the teaspoon measuring spoon. I also added a couple of extra ingredients just to make the tacos even more extraordinary. I put out bowls of halved grape tomatoes, corn salsa and sour cream. Finally, when I first cooked the dish, I used a slab of salmon. This time, I bought a piece that had been fileted so each guest had his own smoky, spicy, sweet piece of salmon to use to make their own tacos. Scroll down and see a couple of other winning Taco recipes. Here is the recipe for this one:
Ina Garten's Roasted Salmon Tacos
A great take on a fish taco using Salmon and a spicy, smoky lime rub.
- For the slaw:
- 3/4 pound green cabbage, cored and finely shredded
- 1/2 seedless cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup good white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the salmon:
- Olive oil, for greasing the pan
- 1 3/4 pounds center-cut fresh salmon fillet, skin removed
- 2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
- 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
- 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
- 4 ripe Hass avocados, seeded and peeled
- 3/4 teaspoon Sriracha
- Step 1 At least an hour before you plan to serve the tacos, toss the cabbage, cucumber, vinegar, dill, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the cabbage to marinate.
- Step 2 When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking dish with olive oil and place the salmon in it. Mix the chile powder, lime zest, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Brush the salmon with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice and sprinkle with the chipotle seasoning mixture. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until the salmon is just cooked through.
- Step 3 Wrap the tortillas in 2 foil packets and place them in the oven with the salmon. Roughly mash the avocados with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice, the Sriracha, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
- Step 4 To serve, lay 2 warm tortillas on each of 6 plates. Place a dollop of the avocado mixture on one side of each tortilla, then some large chunks of salmon, and finally, some of the slaw. Fold the tortillas in half over the filling (they will be messy!) and serve warm.