Cinco de Mayo is Saturday, and it's become an annual tradition in our family to celebrate with a new taco recipe. There's something about a fish taco that fills me with an almost weak-in-the-knees kind of craving, and this year's Grilled Salmon Tacos with my new Avocado, Corn and Cucumber Salsa have left my entire family longing for more.
I love the versatility of tacos and, when creating a new recipe, I generally start with one idea and work from there. In this instance, I was inspired by the lovely, ripe avocados I had just purchased at Hornbacher's. Instead of mashing them into a guacamole, I wanted to make an avocado salsa that would better showcase the fruit's gorgeous color and flavor.
Avocados are rich, creamy and colorful, so I chose a fish that would balance, rather than be overpowered by, these qualities. With its firm texture and full flavor, salmon was a natural choice, and its lovely pink color contrasts beautifully with the bright green avocado.
Having determined my fish, I set about planning the rest of the components for the salsa. I chose to use lime as my acid for the salsa, as it's a great flavor partner for both the avocado and salmon. Sweet corn, raw or grilled, provides a lovely crunch, a touch of yellow and a hint of sweetness. Diced red onion brings more color and some heat, and traditional flavor builders like fresh cilantro, jalapeno and garlic are also included.
There is one ingredient that I almost didn't include in this salsa, as I made the mistake of soliciting an opinion about it from a chef I know (a.k.a., Tony, my husband). I love how cucumber sings when served with salmon, but Tony thought it might overwhelm the salsa. However, I decided to follow my instincts and am grateful for this lesson in confidence.
I like the delicate flavor and firm texture of mini, seedless cucumbers, which I diced into quarter-inch pieces, keeping the peel on for added texture and color. Instead of dominating the other flavors, the cucumber just seems to enhance them with its freshness and brings a complexity of flavor that makes this salsa shine. Even my resident skeptic enthusiastically agreed.
To grill the salmon, I saved a step and used a packet of taco seasoning as my dry rub. I grilled the salmon first to achieve well-set grill marks, and then finished it in the oven, a trick I learned from Tony which results in evenly-cooked and juicy salmon, every time.
To complete the tacos, I filled corn tortillas, lightly fried in oil, with chunks of grilled salmon topped with the avocado salsa, and a bright pop of red cabbage marinated in red wine vinaigrette to garnish. The fresh and fruity salsa was perfect with the grilled salmon and is also great served as a dip with tortilla chips. The fish tacos were so delicious that I've named them Weak-in-the-Knees Grilled Salmon Tacos. Let the cravings begin. Olé!
Weak-in-the-Knees Grilled Salmon Tacos
Makes 6 to 8 tacos
2 to 3 fillets of fresh, boneless salmon (about 1.5 pounds), skinned
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grill
Freshly ground black pepper
1 packet of taco seasoning
Corn or flour tortillas, warmed or lightly fried in oil
Avocado, Corn and Cucumber Salsa (see included recipe)
2 cups red cabbage, shredded (plain or marinated in 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil)
Preheat grill to high heat; preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush the top of each salmon fillet with olive oil, then sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Starting with about a teaspoon per fillet and adding more as desired, dust the seasoning over the top of each fillet, using your hands to spread it until evenly coated.
Grill, top side down, for 3 to 4 minutes, without lifting it, until rich, golden brown marks are set. To create a crisscross pattern, turn each fillet at a 45-degree angle and continue grilling for 3 minutes.
Remove the fillets and transfer to a baking dish. Fill dish with a quarter-inch of water and bake in a 400-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until the center of each fillet is flaky and opaque in color. Remove from oven and cool slightly. May be served immediately or refrigerated for several days.
To assemble the tacos:
Break the grilled salmon into bite-size chunks and place a generous portion in the center of each tortilla. Top with the avocado salsa and garnish with red cabbage. May be served warm or at room temperature.
Avocado, Corn and Cucumber Salsa
Makes about 2 cups
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced into half-inch pieces
1 mini, seedless cucumber, peel on, diced into quarter-inch pieces
1/3 cup red onion, small diced
Kernels from 1 ear of sweet corn, grilled or raw
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Place avocado, cucumber, red onion, sweet corn, cilantro, jalapeno and garlic in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil; lightly toss to combine. Taste and add more lime juice and olive oil if needed, then add salt and pepper as desired.
Best when served immediately.
If refrigerating, place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent discoloration.
Recipe Time Capsule
This week in...
- 2017: Radishes Three Ways: Oven Roasted and Quick Pickled
- 2016: Mother's Day Crepes
- 2015: Greek Spanakopita
- 2014: Zack's Rough Cut Guac
- 2013: Pasta Puttanesca
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.