Tacos are always on my mind. Interesting fillings such as duck, vegetables and fish, rather than ground beef, intrigue. Same for wrappers: homemade, supple wraps capture my attention.
Recently, a tuna version at La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena, seasoned with a sesame wasabi cream and shredded daikon, rocked my taco world.
At home, I cook with the best tuna I can afford to buy from a store that provides information about its fish sources. The individually wrapped and frozen wild-caught ahi yellowfin tuna fillets, sold in 2-pound bags at Whole Foods and Amazon, taste great and prove reasonably priced.
When wild-caught salmon, U.S. mahi mahi or swordfish are on special, I substitute them for the tuna.
A brief marinade in soy and sweet mirin wine seasons the fish perfectly. A schmear of wasabi-and-sesame-spiked mayonnaise lets your taste buds know these tacos are different. Ditto for the crunch of finely shredded daikon. As for the salsa, a touch of lemon and lemon zest, along with rich avocado, turns ordinary cherry tomatoes into a year-round treat.
My favorite wrapper for these tacos turns out to be naan bread sold in the bread aisle or the freezer case. Use one 4-ounce bread per serving. Whether you choose tortillas or naan, be sure to heat the wrappers over a gas flame, grill or in a heated cast-iron to soften, warm and lightly toast before filling.
I like to serve a quick, richly flavored corn soup, made from frozen sweet corn and canned coconut milk, alongside fish tacos. Be sure to use coconut milk intended for culinary purposes.
Colleague Joe Gray likes shrimp in his tacos. That recipe is here, too.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Marinate: 30 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Serves 3 to 4
Fine shreds of napa cabbage can stand in for the daikon. Or use red radish and slice it paper thin.
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet mirin or light agave syrup
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger paste
1/2 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste
14 to 16 ounces fresh or thawed tuna (or salmon) fillets, about 1 inch thick
4-inch chunk fresh daikon radish, peeled
Vegetable oil for high-heat cooking
3 or 4 naan breads (or 6 to 8 small flour tortillas)
Sesame wasabi mayo, see recipe
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped, about 1 1 / 2 cups
3 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 ripe medium avocado, halved, pitted, flesh diced
Marinate the fish: Mix soy sauce, mirin, ginger and wasabi in a small bowl. Put tuna into a plastic food bag. Add half of the marinade; close bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate covered, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the daikon into long very fine shreds. (I use a julienne peeler.) Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Make the salsa: Mix lemon juice and zest, salt and sugar in a small bowl until salt is dissolved. Stir in tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Gently mix in avocado. Serve at room temperature. (Salsa can be refrigerated covered for up to several hours, but let it come to room temperature before serving.)
Shortly before serving, remove tuna from marinade and oil it lightly. Heat a well-seasoned grill pan or nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles vigorously. Add the tuna in a single uncrowded layer; sear one side without turning, 2 minutes. Carefully loosen the tuna from the pan; flip it over. Immediately slide the pan into the hot oven to finish cooking, about 3 minutes for medium rare. Transfer tuna from pan to a cutting board. Let rest while you heat the naan or tortillas.
One at a time, pass the naan or tortillas over a gas flame to heat through and toast lightly. (Alternatively, heat them in a very dry hot skillet, turning until supple and golden.)
Slice tuna into 1/8-inch-thick pieces. To build the tacos, spread one side of the naan or tortillas generously with the sesame mayo. Top with a portion of the tuna, then a generous spoonful of the salsa and a mound of daikon. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Shrimp tacos with slaw
Makes 8 tacos
Recipe from Joe Gray, Chicago Tribune.
1/4 cup lime juice
2 ounces blanco tequila
1 tablespoon canola oil,
1 jalapeño, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded red cabbage
2 green onions, chopped
1 poblano pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix together lime juice, tequila, oil, 1 jalapeño and salt; reserve one-third. Pour the remainder into a zip-close plastic bag; add 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined. Marinate 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the slaw, mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl.
To cook: Drain shrimp, discarding marinade in bag. Thread on skewers; grill over medium heat, turning once and brushing with the reserved marinade, 5-6 minutes total. Serve in tortillas topped with slaw and sprinkled with Tajin or chili powder.
Sweet corn chowder with popcorn and red chili
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes about 5 cups
The addition of diced, grilled shrimp and grilled green onions or zucchini tastes great here. Or garnish with grilled shrimp.
1 bag (16 ounces) frozen super sweet corn kernels, thawed
2 cups organic chicken broth
11 to 14 ounces unsweetened culinary coconut milk
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger paste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste
About 2 cups popped popcorn
Sriracha hot sauce
Put corn, broth, coconut milk, shallot, garlic and ginger into a medium saucepan. Heat to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, over very low heat, 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Puree smooth with immersion blender (or work in batches in a blender and then return to the saucepan). Season with salt. Serve in small bowls topped with popcorn and a swirl of Sriracha. Garnish with grilled shrimp, if desired.
Sesame wasabi cream
Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes about 1/2 cup
Leftovers make a terrific sandwich spread – especially with roast turkey or thin slices of roast pork.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared wasabi paste
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or refrigerated ginger paste
1 to 2 tablespoons half-and-half or milk
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl adding half-and-half to achieve a mixture with the consistency of ketchup. Use at room temperature. (Refrigerate covered up to 1 week.)