Tacos are the perfect summer party food. They put everyone in a good mood (who doesn’t like a good taco?) and you can pile as many delicious seasonal vegetables into them as you can manage— a very good thing, especially in the summertime. (Just remember you’ll have to pick it up. With your hands. Lee always forgets this when making her perfect—but too enormous— taco. Gloriously delicious disaster.) They’re also a snap to make for a crowd. You can put just about anything in them and since they’re a do-it-yourself kind of food, you can put out lots of options and let everyone pick and choose what they like without any fuss or extra work.
For a recent taco night, we made fresh guacamole, a corn and radicchio salad, and fish tacos with quick pickled red onions and jalapeños, plenty of summery fixings, and lots of Peter’s pineapple salsa (one of our very favorite toppings).
Once the sangria was poured and dinner was served (buffet-style, so everyone could make their own personalized taco), the laughter grew louder and everyone was feeling pretty good. It was the best kind of night—more fun than work, more friends than usual, and enough great food and stories to go around. At the end of the evening, each guest left with hydrangeas from our garden and a full, happy stomach.
We love to cook but don’t really love the clean-up. Lining the pan in which you cook the fish with a piece of parchment makes clean-up a breeze! If you can find unbleached parchment, all the better. Parchment can be used in the oven or on the stove to keep the food from sticking to your pan. (Don’t substitute with wax paper. That stuff will melt right into your food with a little heat.)
Something to keep in mind though: When cooking on the stove, be sure to keep the parchment edges inside the pan. Different manufacturers may give different temperature limits, so erring on the side of caution, we use medium heat on the stove and not higher than 350°- 375° in the oven.
Pickled Red Onions & Jalapeños
A quick pickling makes the onions and jalapeños mild and bright with a little bit of snap. They’re as amazing on a taco as they are on a sandwich or salad. They’re equally fantastic with any kind of grilled, roasted, or barbecued meat (Pulled pork? Hellllooo.) and lend a welcome tang to anything in need of a little change or pick-up. A word of advice: You might want to make a double batch—these guys will go faster than you might think and once you realize how good they are, you’ll be wishing you had more left over. Besides, they’ll keep ever so nicely in your fridge.
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 red onion
2 or more jalapeños (depending on how spicy you want the mixture to be)
*Slice red onion and jalapeños very thinly and put in a non-reactive, heat-proof bowl (pyrex or stainless, for example).
*Bring vinegars, sugar, and salt to a simmer in a small pan and stir to until any granules have melted. Pour over onions and jalapeños.
*Cover bowl loosely with saran wrap and let sit until cooled to room temperature.
*Cover tightly or put into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to several weeks. Use generously and often.
* * * *
Peter’s Pineapple Salsa
Notes from Peter…
The thing about salsa is that it’s as rewarding as it is labor intensive. There’s nothing technically difficult about chopping and dicing the ingredients, but it always seems to take like, fifteen minutes more than you were expecting. So, if you’re playing along at home, take that into account.
A word on cilantro! It’s an optional ingredient. Some people love it! (Like me!) Some people hate it! (I won’t name names.) As you may have heard at a few cocktail parties by now, your cilantro preferences are actually genetically determined. Folks who strongly dislike this leafy herb may have a variant in a certain olfactory receptor gene that causes it to smell and taste like soap. (You can read all about it in the journal Flavour! Also, in the UK, they call it coriander. I mean, sure.)
2 cups pineapple, chopped
1/2 a medium-sized red onion, diced
1/2 a medium-sized red pepper, chopped
Half a jalapeño, small dice
Juice of one lime
Salt, to taste
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 cup cilantro (optional)
* Mix all fruit and vegetables together with a nice wooden spoon. (Hey, have you ever wanted to know more about wooden spoons? Maybe read this article.) Let sit a bit so the flavors mingle.
*Mix in the honey and lime juice, and give the bowl another swirl. The salsa will need at least a pinch of salt, but maybe you’re like Lee and you will want more like four pinches. I don’t judge.
* * * *
Makes about 24 6-inch tacos with toppings
Preheat your oven to 350° F, line your baking pan with parchment if you are using it.
2 lbs. Mahi Mahi fillets, or whatever white fish you prefer. Halibut is also a great choice. (Wild caught if available.)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 limes, washed and juiced
Salt, cayenne, and black pepper to taste
24 6-inch corn tortillas
Chopped vegetables- we like tomatoes, radishes, cabbage/crunchy lettuce, sour cream, cotija cheese, and extra lime quarters to squeeze over top. But use anything you like!
*Coat the fish with the olive oil and season with the salt, cayenne, and black pepper to taste. Squeeze the lime juice over the fish.
*Bake until you can flake the fish nicely with a fork and it’s opaque. Depending on the fish’s temperature when you start cooking and its thickness, it can take 20 to 30 minutes, or longer.
*Remove the fish from oven but don’t turn it off. Let the fish rest a few minutes and using a fork, flake into smaller chunks for the tacos.
*Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, wrap in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm. Put out the fish, tortillas, fruit salsa, pickled onions, and any and all fixings.
It wouldn’t be the worst idea to wash these down with some ice cold sangria or margaritas…There won’t be a single taco left over!