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Celebrate Diez y Seis with Seafood Salad Tacos

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After boiling, remove the heads, tails and the shells for this seafood salad.

“After many years away from the twisting, jumbled market complex in downtown Mérida, Yucatán, I returned with one thing on my mind: seafood salad tacos,” writes chef Rick Bayless in “Mexican Everyday” (W.W. Norton & Co., $29.95). “In the stifling heat that envelops the whole peninsula, a cool filling in a warm, just-made tortilla offers the refreshment of an oasis.”

We know something about heat here lately, which makes this treat more than welcome, whether you’re celebrating Diez y Seis de Septiembre or just in search of something light for dinner. And, yes, you can leave out the habanero, but serve these treats with hot sauce for those who want a kick.

Seafood Salad Tacos with Tomato, Radish and Habanero

1 to 1 1/4 pounds medium-small (40 to 60 per pound) shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined OR 1 to 1 1/4 pounds mahi-mahi, halibut, bass, snapper or catfish fillets
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 small white onion, finely chopped
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1 fresh habanero (or jalapeño), stemmed and finely chopped, optional
2 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro
Salt, to taste
12 warm corn tortillas

If using shrimp, scoop them into a medium bowl. Or, for fish, bring about a quart of water to a boil in a medium (3- to 4-quart) saucepan and add 1 tablespoon salt. (If I have a small lime, I’ll squeeze the juice into the water and even throw in the squeezed lime for more flavor.) Add the fish (it’s easiest to manage if the fish in 2 or 3 pieces. Let the water return to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium to let the fish cool in the liquid while you prepare the remaining ingredients. When the fish is handleable, drain and coarsely shred it into a medium bowl.

Add the lime juice, onion, radishes, habanero, tomatoes and cilantro to the bowl with the shrimp or fish. stir, taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.

Serve with the warm tortillas for making soft tacos.

Variations: Instead of shrimp, try shredded slow-simmered pork shoulder or beef chuck or brisket (in Yucatán, they use venison); gently poached, grilled or roasted chicken; roasted or grilled asparagus (cut into 2-inch lengths) or mushrooms (shiitakes, oysters and portobellos are good choices). Though it’s not traditional, when tomatoes aren’t in season, I replace them with tomatillos — raw, chopped in small pieces. For the vegetarian versions, I usually serve crumbled Mexican queso fresco or fresh goat cheese. In any of these variations, 1 or 2 roasted poblanos, peeled, seeded and chopped, can replace the habanero, shifting the focus from brilliant heat and fruity aromas to rich roasted green chile unctuousness.

Makes 4 servings.

From “Mexican Everyday” by Rick Bayless

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