Divine Dining 2/27/13
When I was in college, like many who came before and after me, I succumbed to peer pressure. There was something that became a trendy thing to do; that something was eating fish tacos. Scandalous, I know.
While I resisted as long as I could, one sunny Texan afternoon, I found myself in the local Baja Mexican place with a plate of those tempting tacos in front of me. I had always believed that fish and a taco was as strange a combination as chocolate and broccoli, or Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts. But, I had to admit that it looked wonderful: crispy pan-fried tilapia with a refreshing sweet-spicy mango jalapeno salsa and vibrant red cabbage, cozily wrapped in a fresh corn tortilla.
My senses of sight and smell overpowered all others and I leapt on the trendy bandwagon. The first bite was an explosion of flavor and texture in my mouth, a beautiful symphony of something being so wrong it’s right. They were delicious. I’ve been delightfully enamored with those taco treasures from the sea ever since.
While in seminary in Decatur, Ga., I found that they were once again a trendy culinary treat, with fellow students organizing their social calendars around eating fish tacos. If a friend invited you to Taqueria del Sol to share tacos with them, it was the equivalent of being presented with a handmade friendship bracelet when you were five years old. You were friends for life.
I still adore fish tacos, with my favorite variety being a version of those I first tasted with eager friends in college. Those are what I’ve made for you. If your mind is telling you that fish and tacos simply can’t get along, just tell it to shush while you take a first bite. After that, your resolve will crumble with each taste of spice-rubbed fish, crisped to perfection, and fresh lime-infused mango jalapeno salsa. Pardon the seafood pun, but you’ll be hooked.
Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
2 tilapia fillets
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
4 T vegetable oil
1 small mango, cored and cubed (The easiest way to do this is to cut rounded cheeks off of the
see tacos/page C3
mango by slicing right against the pit. Then work a sharp paring knife along the skin, peeling it, and cut mango flesh into 1/2 inch cubes.)
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, cored, deseeded and finely chopped (add more jalapeno if you like things spicy)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced, plus more for garnish
1/4 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
6 corn tortillas
Heat a large skilled with the oil on medium high heat. Pat fish dry with a paper towel. Combine cumin, chili powder, salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper to make a dry rub. Press gently into the fish, distributing evenly until coated on both sides. Sear fish for 3 minutes on first side. Once you place fish in the pan, do not touch it; just let it enjoy its nice oil bath. After 3 minutes turn and cook an additional 2 minutes on the other side. Once fish is done, remove from heat and flake with a fork. Meanwhile, prepare your simple fresh salsa. Combine mango, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno and lime juice. Add 1/2 tsp. of pepper and taste. Citrus, like the lime juice in this dish, hits on our tongues at the same point as salt, so you’ll want to taste it first to see if any salt is needed. Mine needed only a pinch. Remember that the fish will be very well seasoned. Heat a dry skillet on high heat. Warm tortillas for a minute or so on each side, until they begin to fill with air. Serve pieces of the spicy tilapia inside a tortilla, topped with the crunchy cabbage and colorful salsa.
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The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.