Flaky Fish Tacos with Marinated Red Onions and Cilantro Cream

Flaky Fish Tacos with Marinated Red Onions and Cilantro CreamI’m pleased to report that the best fish tacos I have ever made are also the easiest fish tacos I have ever made.  I love it when that happens! Three simple components come together so well…the fish is moist and spicy, the sauce cool and creamy and the quick-marinated onions are sweet and crunchy.  This is a combination of a couple of recipes, but mainly an adaptation of one from Simply Mexican, by Lourdes Castro.

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1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

about 1 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (you can use regular chile powder if you like but the fish will not be as spicy)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (half for marinade and half for cilantro cream)

1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped

1 pound flaky white fish, such as mahi mahi or cod, cut into 4 pieces (I use cod fish)

salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon heavy cream

8 fresh corn tortillas

2 limes, cut into wedges

Marinate the onion:

Put the onion in a small bowl and pour in enough red wine vinegar to cover.  Add sugar and stir.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes.  May be kept in refrigerator several weeks.

Marinate the fish:

Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the ancho chile powder, oregano, cumin, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, and jalapeno.  Mix well. Place the fish on a dish and pour the marinade over it, making sure to coat the fish well on both sides.  Allow to marinate for 20 minutes.

Make the sauce:

In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, remaining 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, lemon juice and heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook the fish:

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Remove the fish from the marinade and place in the hot pan.  Season the fish with salt.  Cook the fish for 4 minutes undisturbed, then turnover and cool for another 2 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove the pan from the heat and flake the fish into the pan with a fork, making sure to mix in all the marinade that has stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.  Set aside.

For the tacos:

Heat the tortillas, either in a hot skillet or in the microwave between damp paper towels.  Fill each tortilla with a spoonful of cilantro cream, topped with the flaked fish and marinated onions.  Serve each taco with a lime wedge to add a burst of fresh flavor just before digging in.  Serves 4

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The Perfect (and perfectly simple) All Purpose Marinade for Chicken


 

Here is my go-to, all purpose marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Just a quick whisk of a few pantry staples, a few hours to marinate, a quick turn on the grill or under the broiler, and you will have tender, perfectly seasoned chicken ready to serve or to add to pasta, sandwiches or salads.  I like to mince it up finely for chicken salad sandwiches, cut bigger pieces for a stand alone chicken salad, or slice into thin strips for pasta dishes or an easy kid and adult friendly dinner. Feel free to switch out the dried spices to fit your mood and/or the needs of your final dish.

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1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

 

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Marinate chicken at least 3 hours…and up to overnight.  Makes enough to marinate 4 large or 6 small chicken breasts.

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Grilled Chicken Salad with Red Grapes, Pecans and Mustard Vinaigrette

 

 

Cucumber Goat-Teas

Hands down the best cucumber sandwich I’ve ever had.  No need to throw a ladies tea to have an excuse to make these as they would also be a great hors d’oeuvre for a summer evening.  This platter did not make it to the cocktail hour however.  It was empty within minutes of these photos. Recipe by MaryCorpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford, in their book, Cocktail Food.
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3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar.
2 cups very thinly sliced red onion
2/3 cup goat cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
12 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 3 inch squares (They suggest buttermilk bread.  I used Pepperidge Farms Original White.)
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/16 inch slices, cut in half
Pour the vinegar over the onions and let marinate in a small bowl until the onions are soft and malleable, at least 30 minutes.  Strain and refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the goat cheese and cream cheese together in a small bowl.  Season with white pepper.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on each piece of bread.  Cut each piece into 4 triangles. Arrange 2-3 slices of the cucumber on each triangle.  Top with 1 or two slices of red onion.
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Minced Fresh Tuna Burger

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This burger was somewhat of a revelation.  While trying to simplify a time-consuming recipe, and using whatever ingredients I had in the pantry so as to avoid another trip to the market, I ended up with what will be a new family favorite.  For those of us who prefer rare tuna,  it only took a few seconds to sear both sides of the burger.  But one great thing about this tuna is that it stayed moist and tender  even when cooked through, as in the photo above. Try to find a tapenade that is a good mixture of Mediterranean flavors…black olives, capers, herbs and spices and olive oil.  Most grocery stores have at least one or two and of course you will have lots of choices at a speciality food market.  Note that the burgers need to chill for about 30 minutes before cooking.

 

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For one sandwich:
3-4 ounces fresh tuna
1 generous tablespoon prepared black olive tapenade*
coarse ground black pepper
1 split English muffin
olive oil
1/2 green scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
Use a sharp knife to mince the tuna into 1/4 inch pieces then place it in a small bowl and gently stir in the tapenade and a nice big pinch of black pepper.  Since some tapenades are quite salty, it is best not to add additional salt at this point.  Also, the product I used had a nice amount of olive oil.  If your tapenade seems dry, add a drizzle of olive oil to the tuna.  Using your hands, gently mold the tuna into a patty and place it in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, (about 30 minutes) as this will help the burger hold together while cooking.   When ready to serve, brush English muffin with olive oil and toast.  Place tomato and green onion on bottom half of English muffin bun.  Heat a heavy skillet over high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, remove the tuna burger from the frig and use a spatula to gently place in in the pan.  I know that I keep saying “gently” but the point here is that this is a fragile burger and that is what makes it so good…you don’t want to overwork it.  Once one side is nicely seared, it will start to hold together and the English muffin is the perfect “bun” as it provides the right amount of structure.  So, cook the burger to order over high heat and serve it on the English muffin topped with the mayo mix and the capers and a sprinkle of salt if necessary.
*Tapenade: a Provencal paste or dip, made from black olives, capers and anchovies
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Open Face Salmon BLT

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For this wonderful summertime sandwich, I bought a large piece of salmon fillet and cut it into portions that I knew would work with the bread that I was intending to use.  This can be a knife and fork sandwich, or you can do as we did, and use a fork to gently flake the salmon to cover the bread and pick it up to eat out of hand.
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For one sandwich:
1 slice good crusty bread (I used a pre-sliced loaf of La Brea Pane Toscano)
olive oil
1 piece of fresh salmon fillet
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
1 slice tomato
1 leaf bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed
Brush a slice of bread with olive oil and toast until golden.  Season salmon with cracked black peppercorns, ground coriander and a bit of salt.  Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over high heat.  Place salmon fillet in hot skillet and let one side develop a beautiful golden brown crust before turning to cook the other side.  Cook to desired degree of doneness.  I prefer salmon just a touch more cooked than medium and that took about 3 minutes per side.  While salmon is cooking, start to compose the sandwich with the bread, lettuce, tomato and bacon.  Place salmon on top of the bacon slices and finish up with a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture and chopped dill.
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Pimento Cheese, Tomato and Chive Sandwiches

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Two of the South’s favorite sandwiches in one.  How can something so simple be so sublime?  When I was little, I used to pick the slivers of red pimento out of my pimento cheese sandwich so I appreciated the version that my Aunt Caroline made in a blender.  My version uses mild yellow cheddar and those wonderful sweet fire roasted red peppers that you find in a jar.  And although I no longer have an aversion to colorful specks in my food, I still like to blend my pimento cheese.  It just seems to take that lovely pimento flavor all throughout the spread.

For the pimento cheese:
1/3 pound mild cheddar
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
several strips of roasted sweet red bell peppers (I use the equivalent of 1/2 of a med. red pepper)
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more mayo if needed to get to a nice consistency for spreading.
For the sandwiches:
Very Thin White Sandwich Bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
mayonnaise
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced very thinly
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Stack the bread and trim it so that each piece is approximately 3×3 inches.  To construct a sandwich, spread one slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with one or two slices of tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread pimento cheese on second slice of bread and set that on top of the tomato.  Top with a third slice of bread and press slightly.  Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap until all sandwiches are assembled and you are ready to set your tray.
To serve:  Cut each sandwich twice on the diagonal to create 4 equal triangles.  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the long end, the “uncut” side, of the triangle and gently press this side into your minced fresh chives.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches and arrange on a platter.

Daniel Boulud’s Crab Cake Sandwich

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A really special sandwich!  Worth the effort! (published in Elle Decor magazine)
1 pound jumbo lump crab, picked over for shells
1 egg
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch of ginger powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 pinches cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup good white sandwich bread, cut in 1/8 inch dice, then lightly toasted
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 loaf ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed
2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
Sauce Remoulade
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons
1 teaspoon paprika
dash of garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
In a bowl, mix together the egg, mayonnaise, mustard and all of the spices and salt to taste.  Add the crabmeat, mix evenly and gently fold in the toasted bread cubes.  Shape 6 crab cakes of the same thickness without pressing too hard.  Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the remoulade.
Preheat the broiler.  Slice the bread into pieces that are 4 inches long.  Cut each segment horizontally and brush the cup sides with a little of the olive oil.  Toast briefly, open faced, under the broiler, then set aside.
Place the crab cakes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and brush them with the melted butter, Broil each side for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Spread some remoulade on the bread and add 1 slice of tomato,  a leaf of lettuce and a crab cake.  Garnish with a dollop of sauce and an herb sprig to make it pretty!
Serves 6
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