Note: Scroll Down For Full Recipes
As predicted, this weekend was chock full of epicurean adventures. Saturday started with a private tour of ICE and observations of culinary arts, pastry, and sommelier students at work, followed by a meandering stroll through the Sixth Avenue street festival (from 14th to 23rd street, go check it out) where everything from nutella-stuffed crepes to sweet roasted corn to cheesy arepas were being sold at 11 am. Instead of sampling any of the many treats along my walk, I settled for soaking in the sights and smells wafting over me, allowing this to set the tone for a weekend full of culinary magic.
Saturday night my tiny NYC kitchen got a grueling workout. The West Coast mingled with Mexico on East 63rd street, and a little bit of magic happened. With summer winding down, the last warm nights of August provide the perfect stage for treating your taste buds to those beachy flavors that will soon be shelved for the rich, comforting ones of fall. Inspired in part by the refreshing flavors of Zim Zari and other California coastal grills, in part by the summer season itself, with just a hint of inspiration from Food Network’s website, I give you a dinner menu that will leave you nourished, delighted, and yearning to soak up these last few hot summer nights in your city (whichever that might be).
Uno: Down-the-Coast Fish Tacos (Modified from Food Network’s Recipe) – Serves 4
- 1/4 red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- Juice of 1 lime, plus wedges for serving
- 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
- 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
- Kosher salt
- 12 corn tortillas (please use corn tortillas. They make the dish. Save the flour ones for fajitas).
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/4 pounds skinless tilapia fillet
- Salsa of your choice (I went with the spicy mango-peach salsa from last week’s omelet – amazing)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional, especially if you’re genetically predisposed to think this tastes like soap)
Set the broiler to high. Coat a non-stick sheet pan with cooking spray. Season the fish with kosher salt, pepper, and juice from half the lime. Let this marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes or so, then arrange fish in a single layer on the sheet pan and broil.
Meanwhile, toss the cabbage, cilantro, remaining lime juice, honey and mayonnaise in a bowl. Season the slaw with salt. Warm the tortillas in a skillet over medium-low heat (or wrap in a damp cloth and microwave 25 seconds, for those of us who are friends with technology). Wrap in a towel to keep warm.
Broil fish until slightly crispy. Once done, break the fish into large pieces, add to tortillas with the slaw, salsa, and lime juice. Top with Travel Junkie Guacamole (see further down on this post) and enjoy – with a Corona, por favor!
Dos: East-Meets-West Cold Soba Salad – Serves 4
- 1/2 package soba noodles
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced or julienned
- 5 green onions, bottom 4 inches, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage (we used the left over red cabbage from the tacos – even better!)
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced or julienned
- 1 head of bok choy, julienned
- 4 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, chopped, for garnish
- Again, cilantro IS optional
In a large pot, boil water, add salt and cook the soba noodles. They cook really fast – much faster than regular or whole wheat pasta – so keep an eye on them. They should be ready within 5 minutes. When finished, drain noodles and run under cold water until cooled. Drain and set aside.
In a medium bowl combine, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, chili powder, hoisin and extra-virgin olive oil. Mix thoroughly and then combine prepared vegetables and noodles.
Garnish with peanuts and that’s it – you’re done! Proceed to stuff your face. In the words of Cara, “Gracias – De Nada!”
Tres: Travel Junkie Guacamole
- Red onion
- Vine tomatoes
There is a simple, beautiful purity in a dish that is prepared with only a few fresh and flavorful components. This final recipe has six ingredients, but no quantities. Most of us have created a rendition of guac in one form or another at some point, and you probably can feel your way around the correct ratios of avocado to onion to tomato.
Like a great trip – to the coast, or anywhere – this dish is prepared best if you enjoy the experience of making it and feel your way through the process, enjoying the journey as well as the end result. As you prepare it, observe. Taste a jalapeno seed and let it burn on your tongue; feel the firmness of the avocados, scrape the seeds from the inside of the tomatoes and feel the flesh under your fingers. Suck on a lime, and don’t recoil when the onions burn your eyes. Forgo the classic tortilla chip, and eat the finished product with sweet, crunchy endive leaves. Or, embrace tradition and pick up a paper sack of blue corn chips for a more authentic touch. Sit down, take a swig of your Corona, and slather this on your fish tacos. Or your body. Whatever. Just eat it up.