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Posts Tagged ‘tacos’

A cooks night out is a wonderful experience.  For a few hours, being away from a flame and out of harm’s way from razor-sharp knives while removed from the demands of meal preparation is a delightful treat.

For me, dining out doesn’t have to be a fancy meal spanning several hours but it has to be good food.  Good food governs my desire accompanied by a hearty brew or a fine wine alongside.  Therefore, I follow the perceived aroma when I review a menu and if I end up at a white cloth eatery or a local order-and-take-out place then that is where my tastes have steered me.

This weekend what I craved was a casual experience with terrific food flavored such that it totally satisfied my palate.  My appetite wasn’t taking precedence here.  My taste buds were in charge.  In San Diego, it is easy to satisfy my requirements.

My dining companions and I ended up in North Park.  We heard there was an arts festival that evening and thought that would be a relaxing and stimulating stroll after our meal.  We’re a motley crew with eclectic tastes so arts and food just seem to fit like a glove.

North Park, San Diego

North Park is dense with fine food establishments from sit down eateries to places where you need to perch on a planter while you eat.  It is an area with restaurants galore, great deserts shops, taverns and bars, even a wonderful coffee spot to end the night, Café Calabria.

We began the night at Carnitas Snack Shack, always a favorite, which specializes in pork (you guessed it) carnitas!

carnitas menu

While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the ambient artwork and the raised bed of vegetables behind our table.

carnitas mural

Our starter was an exquisite Pork Belly appetizer with sweet chili glazed served with a frisee salad.  It was tangy sweet, melt in your mouth memorable, balanced by the slightly bitter flavor of frisee with some fresh radishes to surprise your palate.

 pork belly appetizer

One of my companions (with a mouth the size of a mason jar opening) ordered the Snack Shack Triple Threat Sandwich: pork Schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon pepperoncini, pickle relish, shack aioli served with a sweet corn salad.  I had to participate in an arm wrestling match in order to get a bite; it was that good!

carnitas triple threat sandwich

The last dish we enjoyed was the Carnitas Tacos: two carnitas tacos with guacamole and salsa fresco served with a sweet corn salad.  If you prefer, you can order this as a torta sandwich.  This one made my taste-buds smile and my tummy feel content.

carnitas tacos

We did order the seasoned fries, served with a sinfully good bacon ketchup, but they vanished before I could get a photo.  Let me just say that this food is so good that you should try to get photos before it hits the table or it’s gone in minutes.

After dinner, we strolled the length of the arts festival and encountered some wonderful food trucks.  Too full to taste them we just stood and inhaled their goodness.  This one represents some fine restaurants in the San Diego area.  Great food all around.

indigo grill truck

The evening ended with a visit to a brew market and then a tavern for a glass of chocolate stout to top off the evening.

north park brew market

chocolate stout

One of us, not me, bought a decadent piece of cake at a nearby bakery before we left the area.  It too mysteriously vanished before I could take a shot of it—or get a taste!  But word has it that we should go back so I can get my own piece.

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Something about sunshine, warmer winds and an optimism that spring will bloom soon turns my attention to recipes with fish.  In the darker days of winter, a nice hot bowl of chowder or seafood stew grabs my appetite.  However, in the spring a good fish fry is in order.

In California, fish tacos easily come to mind.  They are quite popular with residents and tourists alike.  Fresh fish is an important ingredient for these tacos.  Make sure that any fish you buy was not previously frozen.* Make certain your fish does not smell like fish because odor indicates aging.

This recipe easily adapts if you want to save time and energy and just fry the fish to serve with a salad and vegetable too.

FRESH FISH TACOS WITH CHIPOTLE CHILI YOGURT SAUCE: Gluten free, Kosher, non-alcoholic, fresh and healthy

Gluten free, Kosher, fresh with a non-alcoholic option.

In order to serve the fish tacos hot and fresh, begin by assembling your condiments and accompaniments prior to preparing the fish.

Condiments and Accompaniments:
Corn Tortillas
Finely shredded cabbage (green, red or a mixture)
Chipotle Chili Yogurt Sauce, recipe below
Spice Mixture, recipe below or your favorite spice rub
Lime Wedges**

Shred the cabbage, make the chili yogurt sauce and refrigerate, and slice the lime wedges.  Make the spice mixture.  Set tortillas aside until ready to heat.  You can also pour yourself a glass of beer at this point to drink while you cook.

Fish Tacos:

Dry Ingredients:

1 cup Gluten Free All-purpose flour mix + 2 tablespoons cornstarch (homemade or purchased)

OR 1 cup all-purpose white whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne or ground chipotle pepper

Wet Ingredients:

1 egg (or egg substitute)

(Substitute 1 TBL vegetable oil if egg allergic)

1 cup GF beer or Coddled Milk (to be non-alcoholic and      lactose free, club soda can also be substituted)

OR 1 cup beer at room temperature

(I recommend Guiness Stout Ale or Grolsh)

2 teaspoons hot sauce (Tabasco, Cholula or Spontaneous Combustion)
16-24 ounces, firm fleshed fish such as Cod, Tilapia or Halibut, sliced into strips

Optional: 2 tablespoons spice mix, recipe below

Vegetable oil for frying.  (Use enough to cover the bottom of your pan to depth of approx. ¼ inch.)

Alternatively, the fish can be baked at 375° for 8-10 minutes.

Always check earlier for doneness.

Mix the one cup of flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne or chipotle pepper together in a medium mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, add the egg, beer and hot sauce.
Stir until the ingredients combine thoroughly and the mixture is smooth.

Carefully mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, slowly.  Gently mix them together.

Optional if using spice mixture:  Season each piece of fish with 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture.  Sprinkle with lime juice.  Let stand about 5 minutes.  The lime will help firm the fish flesh.

Cut each fillet into diagonal strips, 1 ½ inches long.

Heat the oil, using enough to cover the pan bottom, in a large saucepan or a deep frying pan to help reduce splatter.

Dredge each slice of fish in the beer batter, coating the fish completely (remember to cover the area where your fingers hold the fish).  Pause with the fish over the bowl to allow any extra batter to drip back into the bowl.

Then, slowly (I really mean slowly to prevent splatter burns) lower the fish into the hot oil.

DO NOT drop the fish, just lower it slowly and release it.  Fry the fish until it is puffed up, golden brown and crispy.  Frying should take 3-5 minutes.

Remove the fish with tongs or a slotted spoon.  Drain on paper towels placed in an oven proof dish. You can keep the fried fish pieces warm in a 225º oven while you finish frying.

Repeat this process with the remaining fish slices.  Work in small batches because the fish will puff up.  You don’t want the pieces to touch each other.

While the fish stays warm, heat the corn tortillas.

Assemble and enjoy!

Chili Cream Sauce:
(about 1 ¾  cups)
1 ½ cups lowfat or nonfat Greek yogurt

(nonfat or lowfat sour cream can be used as a substitute)
2 large chipotle peppers in adobo (or more if you like it hot)
juice of 1 small lime
lightly salt and pepper
Blend ingredients until pureed.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Optional Spice Mixture:
3 tablespoons hot Hungarian paprika (not sweet)
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper or chipotle pepper powder
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin

*Frozen works if it is all that’s available.  It just doesn’t keep a firm meaty texture like fresh fish.

**Optional condiments: sliced avocado, guacamole, salsa fresca

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