Tilapia Tacos and Avocado Salsa

Get married in October – Check.  Revel in a delectably perfect and peaceful honeymoon in Hawaii – Check.  Pack up all the major essentials and ship it all to Maryland – Check.  Begin a brand-spanking-new married life with a fantastically ideal husband – Check.  Start sharing all the culinary experiences I have created in my own kitchen … check?

It would appear so.  So let’s fast forward one year and pretend this is the start of something fresh and new.  And I’ve been thinking of what to start with, since I’ve been living in Maryland for more than a month now and have done quite a lot of my own cooking, occasionally by the book, occasionally exploratory.  But, since last night is fresh in my head, we’ll just go there.

Everyday I’ve been trying to find some kind of inspiration, while also not spending too much on groceries, which is abysmally difficult to do especially when you are starting from scratch and need to establish at least the basics in your kitchen.  At any rate, I had some mango (strangely Safeway mangos have been tasting good  lately), tilapia in the freezer (the only fish my husband will touch most of the time), and small chapatis (thin Indian flat bread), so a bit of whimsy and a bit of yearning for California flavor in this near wintry gloom made me think up pan-fried tilapia tacos with mango salsa!

Except upon cutting, I found my mango had gone bad. Alas.  But avocado and red onion to the rescue made up for it in the end.  Woo hoo!  Normally this would have been grilled tilapia, but as I don’t even have a grill pan at the moment, I settled for simply cooking it in the pan for a good while… the longer you cook the fish, by the way, the tougher or thicker it becomes, which was good for a taco dish because it created a nice meatier texture while also killing off any remnants of fishiness entirely.  So here you go:

Ingredients:

Fish marinade:

  • 2 tilapia fillets, defrosted if necessary
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ -1 tsp lime juice
  • Small drizzle of honey

Everything else

  • ¼ red onion, chopped
  • 1 avocado (not fully ripe), peeled and chopped
  • Roughly 3 tbsp chopped cucumber
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3-4 chapatis (or any small tortilla you like)
  • Sour cream
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped lettuce

First, the marinade.  Basically mix all the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl (minus the fish) and transfer into a ziplock bag.  Place one fish fillet at a time into the bag to coat it nicely, then just shake the bag up a bit to get the marinade around all both fillets, and set in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  If you have a lemon, try using lemon zest instead, it provides more citrusy taste without the bitterness of juice.

To make our not-so-mango-but still delish salsa, combine the chopped red onion, avocado, and cucumber into a bowl.  Add the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  You can vary all four depending on what you like. You can also include some red chili flakes or a dash of hot sauce as well if you want some heat.  I felt like keeping it simple this time.  Add the cilantro and mix everything together.

Once the salsa is combined, cover it with plastic and set it aside.  Heat up a shallow pan on low-medium heat (my stove goes from 1-10, I stay around 3-4 for this), and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of oil just enough to coat the bottom completely.  Get the fish out of the fridge and remove from the bag, letting excess marinade drip off before laying each one down in the pan.

Now, at first, a very strong fishy smell was still detectable when I put these suckers in, and I was worried.  My husband does NOT like anything with even the tiniest hint of fishiness, he’ll just not eat.  So, I ended up actually squeezing a little more lemon on top of each fillet as it cooked, and sprinkled more salt (because I used rather little in the marinade anyway).  And then I let it cook for a good 8-9 minutes each side. Once the fish firmed up completely and was a nice toasty brown, a taste test showed it was good to go.

Now, all that is left is assembly.

Warm up your tortilla however you wish (microwave wrapped in a papertowel, or heat on a pan, etc).  I lay down a little hot sauce on the tortilla, then placed a fish fillet on top, cutting it up with a fork.  Add sour cream, the avocado salsa, and a bit of cheese, and fold it up.  Can make up to 4 tacos.

Serve it with a side of chips and salsa, and you have yourself a delightful touch of Mexico, which can be especially pleasing after a cloudy Maryland day.  All that was needed was mariachi music and a sombrero.

*Sorry, no pictures, these were literally made to order, and were consumed within seconds haha. Soon enough though, I’ll get back on track with that.*

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