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Original Baja Fish Tacos


The Original Baja Fish Taco

Original Baja Fish Tacos

This recipe involves several steps and a merging of a few recipes before you get the final tacos, but the end result is well worth it. One taste will convince you why these are a Baja California favorite.

Only the Secret White Sauce recipe is slightly different, because chef Eric Nelson doesn’t really want to see the secret in print. But he will give it to you over the phone. So, give him a call at (210) 241-2006 and ask. Your family will thank you for it.

Nelson, corporate executive chef at Zachry, demonstrated this recently at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Herb Garden Mexican Oregano Beer Batter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (12-ounce) beer
1/4 cup Mexican oregano
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Water to thin batter

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar with eggs, melted butter, beer and Mexican oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Thin out with water if needed.

Makes 1 quart.

Secret White Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Mix mayonnaise, sour cream and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fire-Roasted Texas-Grown Red Tomato Salsa

4 fire-roasted tomatoes, preferably Texas grown
2 white or yellow onions
4 cloves garlic
3 serrano chiles
1/4 bunch cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste

Rough chop tomatoes, onions, garlic, serranos, cilantro, olive oil and salt, and pulse with hand blender.

Makes 1 quart.

Tacos:
1 quart oil for frying (canola, soybean or peanut) or Fry Daddy
8 ounces mahi mahi or cod, cut into strips 2 ounces each
2 ounces flour seasoned with salt and pepper
8 ounces Herb Garden Mexican Oregano Beer Batter
4 white corn tortillas (use 2 per taco if they are thin)
8 ounces Secret White Sauce
4 ounces Fire Roasted Texas Grown Tomato Salsa
4 ounce green cabbage, shredded like coleslaw
1 lime quartered

Eric Nelson demonstrates how to make fish tacos at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Heat oil in a fryer to 350 degrees.

Dredge mahi mahi in seasoned flour.

Dredge fish in beer batter and fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain.

Warm corn tortillas in skillet.

To assemble: Place 1 corn tortilla on a plate with 1 piece of fish in center. 2 ounces Secret White Sauce on fish, 1 ounce salsa on top of white sauce, then 1 ounce shredded cabbage.  Squeeze 1 quarter of lime juice on cabbage.

Makes 4 tacos.

From Eric Nelson

 

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Celebrate Diez y Seis with Seafood Salad Tacos


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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Leave the Sugar Out of Spicy Cabbage Slaw


Spicy Cabbage Slaw

“Of the zillions of versions of coleslaw, I’m not a big fan of the sweet ones, or the mayonnaise ones either. This recipe is more like a refreshing cabbage salad,” David Tanis writes in the new cookbook, “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys” (Artisan, $35).

Tanis, chef at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, is right on the money. This slaw is a winner, whether you are serving it as a side dish or on top of fish tacos or a pulled pork sandwich.

You can cut the cabbage into strips or shreds or chop it fine, depending on your preference.

Spicy Cabbage Slaw

1 small firm green cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 jalapeño or serrarno, finely chopped
Juice of 3 limes, or to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Put the cabbage, onion, chile and lime juice in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

After an hour, the cabbage will have wilted slightly. Taste for salt and lime juice, adjust the seasonings and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

From “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys” by David Tanis

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A First Glance: Boardwalk on Bulverde Speeds Along on Great Tastes


G&G Mobile Bistro offers soups and sandwiches at Boardwalk on Bulverde.

The taco trucks have arrived en masse. For more than a year now, a growing number of San Antonio’s empty parking lots have been visited by mobile food trucks selling everything from tortas to cupcakes. Now, the first park filled with airstream trailers and portable kitchens, Boardwalk on Bulverde, has opened. (Jason Dady’s DukTruck has hit the road, and Andrew Weissman’s Luxury Trailers are expected in the next few weeks.)

Many of the units on Bulverde Road will be familiar to those who have frequented the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market. They include Saweet Cupcakes, Toastie Buns with gourmet hamburgers, Tin Cup Tacos with burritos as well as tacos, Wheelie Gourmet with Mediterranean fare and Bistro Six with crabcakes and more delicacies. There’s also a barbecue unit with ribs, chicken and brisket.

I love this truck food, which is usually given careful attention by the cooks before being served to the hungry lines. So much, in fact, that I jumped at the chance to join a friend there for lunch this week, despite the cold and wet weather.

The sausage, lettuce, tomato and fried egg sandwich from G&G Mobile Bistro.

Several of the units were closed that gray day, and there weren’t too many people wandering about. But the folks who braved the Arctic chill were rewarded with some really good treats.

The promise of a cup of hot soup was too irresistible, so our first stop was G&G Mobile Bistro where the day’s offering was Split Pea with Potato ($3). (When I told my colleague of this later that afternoon, she went into the kitchen and created her own.) In addition to being comfortingly warm, the silky smooth soup scored because of the way the split peas and potato complemented each other.

We also ordered a sausage, lettuce, tomato and fried egg sandwich ($7) from G&G. It’s a big messy treat. The yolk exploded on first bite, sending streams of yellow across the rest of the sandwich, my fingers, my coat and most everything else in sight, except, thankfully, the cucumber-tomato salad on the side. The eggy bread just sopped up what it could, leaving me happy indeed.

Fish tacos from Tin Cup Tacos.

We also stopped by Tin Cup Tacos for a pair of fresh fish tacos ($5) topped with a red cabbage slaw, cheese and a lively dressing. The fish tasted great, well met by the corn tortillas and the tantalizing textures, and both disappeared in seconds.

We finished off the meal with a trip to Saweet. My friend had a carrot cupcake ($2.75) that somehow, in hindsight, I don’t recall her sharing. That says a great deal. She did enjoy a bite of my white cupcake topped with strawberry-mango butter cream frosting, a touch of spring on a cold gray day.

Bear in mind: Most of the trailers at Boardwalk on Bulverde only accept cash, so you may want to hit the ATM before showing up. And bring an appetite. You’ll want to sample your way across the lot before you’re through.

A cupcake with strawberry-mango frosting from Saweet Cupcakes.

Boardwalk on Bulverde
14732 Bulverde Road
11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday (ideally)
210-402-2829
www.boardwalkonbulverde.com

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Fish Tacos With Creamy Chipotle Sauce


FishTacos2Fish tacos have earned a great reputation during the past decade or more in San Antonio. We like variety, though, so we’ve seen variations – with chipotle dressing or green chile dressing, with or without avocado and single- or double-wrapped in steamy, warm corn tortillas.

Double wrapped is traditional. The filling, which contains shredded cabbage, fried (or grilled, if you prefer) fish, dressing, cheese and more, can overwhelm just the single tortilla.

To fry up fish with a crunchy but not heavy coating, I always use corn flour, which is the main ingredient in Zatarain’s fish fry coating. You can get it seasoned or season it yourself with salt and pepper. Also,  if you like this option, sliced radishes add flavor, crunch and color.

Fish Tacos With Creamy Chipotle Sauce

Creamy Chipotle Sauce:
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 small chipotle peppers, soaked in hot water, seeded and cut into small dice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely minced onion
Garlic salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Garnishes:
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
1 medium tomato, sliced
1/2 cup shredded Longhorn cheese
1/4 cup sliced red radishes
1 small avocado, pitted and sliced
1 small lemon, cut in 4 wedges

Fish for filling:
Canola oil for frying
2 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets, thawed if frozen
3/4 cup corn flour (Zatarain’s plain fish fry coating)
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

8 corn tortillas

For Chipotle Sauce: Whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, chipotle peppers, lemon juice, garlich salt and white pepper in a small bowl, covered, in the refrigerator while you prepare tacos.

For Garnishes: Put all of the garnishes into bowls and have ready for dressing the tacos.

For Fish: Heat canola oil to about a depth of 1 inch in a large, nonstick skillet. While heating the oil, put corn flour on a plate and mix in the salt and pepper, to taste. Dredge each piece of fish in corn flour, patting gently so that the corn flour coats the surface well. When oil is hot enough to sizzle when a drop of water is flicked in, gently lay the fillets in the oil. Keep the temperature even and fry fish, turning once with tongs, until it is firm and golden on each side. Place the fish on a clean plate or on a draining rack.

To assemble:  Heat the tortillas in the microwave, a nonstick skillet or comal on top of the stove. When they are warm and tender (not getting crisp), put four tortillas on two plates, in pairs, one atop the other. On each pair of tortillas place half of a fillet of fried fish, then garnish with the cabbage, tomato, cheese, radishes and a slice or 2 of avocado. Dress each with some of the Chipotle Cream Sauce, and serve the rest of the sauce on the side, along with the wedges of fresh lemon.

Makes 2 servings of 2 tacos each.

From Bonnie Walker

Recipe part of:  WalkerSpeak: Casual or Fancy, Keep Tilapia Around

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WalkerSpeak: Casual or Fancy, Keep Tilapia Around for Great Tastes


FishTacos2

Fish Tacos With Creamy Chipotle Sauce

Looking to pick up a deliciously healthy habit as the holiday season gets underway?

Stop at the freezer section of the store and pick up a bag of flash-frozen tilapia fillets. I always keep a couple of pounds of these in my freezer for those what-should-I make-for-dinner evenings.

While the name “tilapia”  just doesn’t really summon up the excitement of,  say, fresh Alaskan halibut or wild-caught salmon, it is good.  The mild flavor and firm, flaky texture make it adaptable for many preparations.

I don’t like catfish, so I use tilapia instead. Tilapia in gumbo? Sure. Tilapia smothered in a good Creole sauce? Excellent.

The two preparations I’m sharing here today are two of my favorites. Fish Tacos, for casual or company fare; Sautéed Tilapia With Butter-Toasted Almonds to fancy things up.

Fish Tacos With Creamy Chipotle Sauce

Some time back, when I first heard about fish tacos, I thought they sounded  a little odd. Then, they started to turn up on San Antonio menus. We especially fell in love with the Sea Island version, where they know how to fry fish to perfection.

After just one taste, I was hooked on that the combination of sweet, crunchy white fish, wrapped in two warm corn tortillas and dressed with the chile pepper-spiked tartar sauce. While you can grill fish or prepare it any other way for a fish taco, I particularly like the contrast in textures you get with  crisp fried fish, crunchy slivers of cabbage and radishes and the lively flavors of a chile tartar sauce or salsa.

In this recipe for Fish Tacos, I added sliced avocado. (Why not?) The tartar sauce is actually just a simple blend of sour cream and mayonnaise, soaked and seeded chipotle chiles and a little minced onion and garlic salt. Char-roasted jalapeños or serranos served on the side are just about the perfect garnish.

Serve fish tacos with tender charro beans, seasoned sweet potato fries, your favorite coleslaw or a vegetable, such as green beans tossed in lemon butter with toasted almonds.

Sauteed Tilapia With Butter-Toasted Almonds

TalapiaWithAlmonds

Sauteed Tilapia With Butter-Toasted Almonds

This dish can be for everyday or you can pretend it’s gourmet. If you consider the browned butter and toasted almonds, the succulent fish and the sparkling flavor of fresh lemon,  it all just adds up to good food. And, it takes little time to prepare.

I sometimes just want the simple flavors of fish, lemon and butter. But if you need another flavor in the dish to add interest, go for some minced fresh herbs, such as dill or thyme, and fresh parsley. The fresh lemon is a must, though.

One more tip: If you keep almonds or other nuts in the freezer, they keep very well this way. But, they can also get stale if they’ve been in there awhile, or if the container wasn’t properly sealed. Taste them to be sure they’ll highlight the dish as they should, not add an off flavor.

Recipes:

Fish Tacos With Creamy Chipotle Sauce

Sautéed Tilapia With Butter-Toasted Almonds

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The Cove: Cozy Place, Great Burgers


the-cove-008One of the best burgers in Texas, at least according to a high profile, Austin-based magazine, is the Texas Burger at The Cove. To their reviewers, this burger (with refried beans, corn chips and red onions, avocado and salsa) outshone more popular burger havens in town, including the traditional local favorite, Chris Madrid’s.

We have patronized The Cove for years, enjoying the food and the odd location — it’s also part car wash, part Laundromat. Play areas inside and outside are there for the kids, and a big, beer-hall style dining room is in back where one can escape most of the summer’s heat.

Food: 4
Service: 3
Value: 4

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

Hardy San Antonio diners, though, can be found in just about any weather, seated under shaded patio areas outside. At lunchtime during the week, there may be a line extended out the door — which has to be the very best advertising of all for any restaurant.  You do stand in line to order at the counter, but someone delivers the food when it is ready.

So, we have enjoyed the flavorful, meaty taste of these now-famous burgers at The Cove. Note that the S.O.L. notation on the menu stands for “sustainable, organic and local.” The Bison burgers are cooked right (that is to say, not overcooked) and served with chipotle sauce; lamb burgers are laced with salty Mexican cheese. Veggie burgers are available as well, including a grilled portobello mushroom with spinach, red onions and cheese. We had a bite of a burger on special last week, the meat topped with a perfectly fried egg. It could’ve won a mention, too.

While The Cove has plenty to offer, including a beer list with more than 100 beers, it is notable that the owners, Sam and Lisa Asvestas, were paying attention to certain buzzwords before they really got buzzing. They use recycled goods when possible; they pay attention to sustainable, local, fresh and organic when it comes to the food. “Homemade” is another word to throw in there, too.

The fish taco (now commonplace in San Antonio but just catching on in the rest of the world, apparently) is not fancy or overloaded. It’s made with mild-flavored, grilled tilapia, a fish I prefer to catfish. The shaved red cabbage and the spicy poblano chile sauce boosted this warm, foil-wrapped taco to better-than-ordinary.

Falafel Sandwich

Falafel Sandwich

I was tempted to go back for seconds, but managed to resist after a friend passed along a bite of her entrée. This was an Organic Falafel Sandwich with spinach salad, with hummus on the side. It was very good — something I’d eat instead of a burger and not feel at all meat deprived.

In general, one of the things I like about this restaurant’s menu is that they put the right foods together. This sounds elementary, but you might know what I mean. Like, I am never happy to find, say, canned pineapple chunks in a tuna salad, for instance. They just plain don’t belong there.

I do approve of bacon paired with avocado in just about anything, or goat cheese with a salad that includes grilled apples and walnuts. And, there appear to be two or three kinds of organic hummus available, which is a plus any way you look at it.

I will have to return to The Cove to sample the Jalapeño Carrot Cake.  As it was, I was allowed to have not one, but two, bites of a friend’s Green Brownie. It was gluten free but flavor packed, moist but firm, and the essence of deep, dark chocolate. Go and have one.

Check out the website for the music schedule, to learn about the chef and owners, and read the entire menu. If it sounds good on paper (or looks good on your screen), when you sit down to eat at The Cove you can believe it will taste good, too.

The Cove
(210) 227-2683
Lunch: Monday-Saturday. Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday.
$

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