By Mary Ann Ebner
When it comes to lost loves, I’ve always believed in leaving them right where they belong — in the past. But not when it comes to forgotten food flames. There’s no need to agonize over why or how I drifted away from a delicious and meaningful dish. Unlike forgotten love, recalling that favorite meal presents the opportunity to bring the lapsed lunch back to the table.
My romance with fish tacos is a love that I share with my husband. He deserves credit for making taco night part of our courtship ritual along California’s Central Coast when we were engaged. We’d go on a run from Monterey to Pacific Grove and work up an appetite. We found ourselves often savoring fish tacos, either in Pacific Grove, or on Tyler Street in Monterey, at least a couple of nights each week. But not just any taqueria would do. We played favorites. Fish tacos had replaced sardines in this fish town — once a sardine canning capital — and they provided the perfect mix of flavor and filling.
Why make them at home when The Fish Wife or its younger offspring, Turtle Bay Taqueria, could source the ingredients, prepare the meal and do the dishes in a commercial kitchen?
But somewhere throughout our journey, after we left California and moved five or six more times before landing in New York’s Hudson Valley, we let the relationship with the spicy grilled whitefish topped with fresh crunchy salsa and finished with zesty lime fade away.
It was our 2014 trip to Costa Rica that took us back to our love affair with fish tacos. Definitely not a California Baja fish-fried crunch of a taco, but the ones we sampled near Arenal and Manuel Antonio rekindled our affinity for this lost symbol of our courtship and set our sons’ hearts ablaze with a great taste they could appreciate. Served primarily with fresh corn tortillas slathered with a curry mayonnaise, our favored variation in Costa Rica was anchored with flaky grilled white fish, smothered with tomatoes and topped with cilantro.
Making them at home is now a family affair. Everybody helps out, from whipping up a curry sauce to grilling the fish. It’s a fast and fresh option for hopeless romantics of the heart or the discriminating palate.
Recipe — Fish Tacos
Yield: Makes 8 generous servings.
1 to 1 ½ pounds flaky whitefish (I’ve been reaching for tilapia lately though swordfish is a treat.)
2 large whole tomatoes (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
¼ cup olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 cup mayonnaise
1 avocado (pitted, peeled and sliced)
1 fresh lime
8 corn tortillas (mix it up with flour tortillas if you prefer)
Fold together diced fresh tomatoes, chopped onion and cilantro in mixing bowl. Add a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Dust fish with remaining olive oil and grill over medium heat to your liking. If grilling’s not an option, broil or pan-sear fish to cook through.
Mix curry with mayonnaise; add a splash of freshly squeezed lime juice. Set aside. Warm tortillas on stovetop or in microwave and make your own fish tacos immediately by dressing tortillas with curried mayonnaise and filling with flaky fish and salsa. Serve with avocado slices and lime wedges. Rice, beans and fruit make perfect sides.