Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fish Tacos and Black Beans

Fish tacos are refreshingly different.
Well, in the midwest they're refreshingly different.
AND they're simple.

One surprise is the slightly sweet and very crunchy raw cabbage.
Here in the US it's not as common as lettuce, but cabbage is more traditionally used in Mexico (I think because it'll stay crisp and is less likely to wilt in the hot weather).
Don't let the fact the cabbage is in a taco be off-putting to you. It's good, and NECESSARY, just try it...

I can admit I was never really a corn tortilla fan. That is, until I was in Mexico one time and we ate freshly made corn tortillas every day (from one of the tortillarias down the road) with a warm toasty-sweet roasted corn smell and flavor.
For a snack in the afternoon we ate these fresh tortillas with a liberal smear of good ripe avocado, a sprinkle of salt, and a spray of fresh lime juice.
Strangers can sometimes teach you amazing things.

That said, there's a huge difference between good tortillas and bad ones. More often than not, the corn tortillas here are far surpassed by flour tortillas. Then again, they're all packaged.

One quick corn tortilla tip: if you give them a quick spray on both with cooking spray (PAM, olive oil spray, whatever), throw them on a pan (they can be stacked several high if you need to), and bake for about 3 minutes at 350, they'll cooperate much better than if you try to use them straight out of the package.
They become warm and pliable- much less likely to crack or break into pieces, and nicer to eat.
You could brush on the oil, I suppose, but the spray will give you such a nice LIGHT layer of oil.

As for the suggested (NECESSARY) accompaniments, to me, things just don't taste quite right if I don't have a little of everything on my list.

However, since corn tortillas are generally fairly small, you have to be careful to resist the temptation to overfill the tortilla. You want to be able to actually hold the taco without it falling out all over the place and/or breaking.

P.S. More than a year later...
There's an updated version of the tacos here (I even like it better).

Fish Tacos
serves 4-6

2 lb. cod filets or other firm, mild white fish, cut into short strips
Olive oil
3 T soy sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t cayenne pepper

NECESSARY Accompaniments:
Corn tortillas
Cabbage, sliced/shredded
Diced fresh tomatoes and salsa (verde or regular tomato salsa)
Avocado, sliced
Fresh limes, halved lengthwise and then quartered
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Optional Accompaniments:
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (Monterrey Jack, Cheddar, or a Mexican blend)

Place the fish in a large bowl.
In a small bowl mix soy sauce, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Pour the sauce over the fish and mix gently, set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the marinated fish and cover. Cook about 5 minutes and check for doneness.
Place fish and all other desired accompaniments on a warmed corn tortilla. Squeeze on a little lime juice and eat.

Black beans are a great side for the meal or as an additional accompaniment used in the tacos.
Actually, I think they're important.

This is how I like to make them.

Black Beans
makes about 6 cups

1 lb. dried black beans
6 c. water
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 T minced garlic
1 large white onion, diced
2 t kosher salt
Large dash cayenne pepper (optional)
Cilantro stems (optional)

Rinse and sort black beans to remove dusty residue and any possibility of pebbles.
Place beans, water, olive oil, garlic, onion, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lay the cilantro stems (if using) on top. Cover with a well-fitting lid and turn down the temperature to low so the bean mixture simmers. Check the beans a few times and stir gently during the cooking process.
Simmer about 2 hours, until the beans are soft and most of the water has been absorbed. Remove the cilantro stems, and with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon partially mash and stir the beans. Taste and re-season as necessary.
The beans will thicken a bit as they sit and will be easier for serving.


  1. yay! I love good fish tacos. Will try this soon!!

  2. Best black bean recipe!
    Use it all the time, and LOVE these babies!