So, here we have meal #2 from the Cuizoo Arsenal. I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting one done per day, but I’ll try to keep these coming as frequently as possible. I know I’ll be cooking tonight, but once the weekend hits, I don’t make any promises as cooking cuts into my drinking time. I kid. (I should mention though that one small bottle of white wine has lasted me *all* week, which is some sort of healthy living record for me. And no, I haven’t switched to bourbon in an attempt to take it easy on wine.)
Today we are going to talk about tacos. They are generally a huge kid favorite and when it comes to flexibility, anything in a wrap is about as good as it gets. Let’s first discuss the shell. I, for one, don’t really like grocery store taco shells because they just break and make a mess. When I came across this lightly fried/soft shell method for tacos a while back, I began to enjoy them again. Basically, you soften a corn tortilla in a bit of oil in a saute pan, fill it with toppings and cheese, fold it over, and let it crisp a bit before flipping it and then crisping the other side. What you end up with is a crispy (but not crunchy) taco shell with warm fillings and melted cheese. It’s sort of a cross between a quesadilla and a taco. This all being said, if you like regular taco shells or if you want to do soft tacos with flour tortillas, it’s totally up to you. One thing to add here is that you should always have some corn or flour tortillas in your freezer (and regular taco shells or tostado shells — which I do love — in your pantry). It is a no-brainer of a meal.
Second, you need some protein. Obviously, the choices are pretty obvious here. A can or two of white or black beans heated up with some garlic and spices and mashed is fantastic in a taco (and about as fast as you can get for a dinner). Grilled chicken or ground beef are the old stand-bys. Sauteed veggies with cheese is great too. You can also do a combination of several proteins and let everyone pick their favorites. But it seems that the whole world is gaga over fish tacos right now (and I can’t say I blame them), so that’s what we did last night. On the subject of the fish, I will add that the sesame crusted method I used makes a great and easy stand alone entree with a simple salad or vegetables. You can also add some bread crumbs to the sesame seeds if you like.
Third, you need some condiments. The easy ones are salsa and sour cream. Not much more difficult is making some basic guacamole. When I do that, I simply mash one or two ripe avocados with a chopped garlic clove, salt and pepper, some cumin, and lime juice. With last night’s meal, I had some tomatoes and cucumbers left over from the previous night, so I just chopped those up with the avocado for more of an avocado salad. As the veggie or an additional condiment, I like to serve some form of cole slaw or salad greens with tacos because they are just as good inside the taco as on the outside. Find a good hot sauce for the grown-ups at the table and you are basically done.
Now, for variations that we love: Spicy Mashed Black Beans with a Creamy Red Cabbage Slaw and Queso Fresco or Feta cheese — that is one of my favorites; Grilled BBQ Chicken (or leftover chicken) with Creamy Slaw and Cheddar Cheese; Steak with Caramelized Onions and a bit of Blue Cheese and Balsamic Greens; Fajita style with Grilled Chicken and Sauteed Red Peppers and Onions; or for a VERY quick dinner, just cheese and whatever else you may have leftover or in the freezer (guaranteed to be faster than any fast food).
As for the $15 limit, I might be slightly over because the fish itself was about $10. But clearly you can make this meal just as easily with chicken or beans and cut that cost dramatically. So, I’ll let it slide.
Sesame Crusted Fish Tacos with Avocado Salad and Slaw
Makes 8-10 tacos (enough for 4-6 people)
1 pound of mild white fish (I used cod)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (you can buy them pretoasted in Asian markets)
1 T butter
Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder
10 – 6 inch corn tortillas
4-6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 ripe avocado
10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes
Fresh cilantro from one bunch
1 garlic clove
1/2 of a lime
1/4 t cumin
Salt and Pepper
A small Napa or Chinese Cabbage (or any type of cabbage will work)
Fresh cilantro from one bunch
1/2 of a lime
A bit of orange juice
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt 1 T butter and mix with sesame seeds. Add to that 1/4 t salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to season (Chipotle Powder if you like it spicier). Place fish on a parchment line baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut it into 3/4 inch slices, but leave whole filet in one piece (See pic above). Pat sesame seed mixture all over top. Bake for 12-13 minutes until just opaque.
2. While the fish is baking, mix avocado salad. Halve, peel, and remove pit from avocado. Chop it into a medium-sized dice and place in bowl. Halve the cucumber lengthwise, remove seeds with a spoon, and chop into a medium-sized dice. Quarter the cherry or grape tomatoes. Finely chop a small piece of onion to make about 2 T. Chop about 1 T of cilantro. Finely chop the clove of garlic. Mix all of the above in the bowl. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lime and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with 1/4 t of salt, pepper, 1/4 t of cumin, and a bit of Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder. Set aside.
3. Prepare the slaw. Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core. Thinly slice 1/2 of the cabbage and place in a bowl (reserve other half for a different use). Chop about 1/4 cup of cilantro and add to cabbage. Drizzle with about 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice of 1/2 lime, and a bit of orange juice to taste. Season with 1/2 t of salt and pepper. Play with the dressing if needed, adding more citrus, salt, or olive oil if necessary. Set aside.
4. To prepare the tacos: heat a bit of olive oil in a large saute pan. Take one corn tortilla and place it flat into the pan, spinning it a bit to coat it with olive oil. After about 10-20 seconds, it should be flexible (if it’s not, your shells may crack). Add one or two slices of the baked fish and about 1 T of shredded cheese. Gently fold the taco in half and hold with a spatula for a few seconds to make sure it stays folded. Repeat with another taco (I usually do two at a time). When the tacos are lightly golden on one side, flip and cook on the other side. Remove to an oven safe platter and place in oven to stay warm. Repeat with remaining tacos.
5. To serve, put a bit of the avocado salad inside the taco and serve with slaw, sour cream, salsa, and hot sauce. The slaw is also good inside the taco as a condiment.