Summertime in Boston is the ideal time to explore recipes that take advantage of the simple, delicious and locally sourced seafood that the region is famous for. Before heading back to school in Ohio, where there is an abundance of local catfish, but no Gulf of Maine fishery, I decided to prepare one of my favorite dishes: fish tacos!
Fish tacos are very popular these days, and there are a number of different styles and recipes one could follow. However, regardless of your recipe, the core of the fish taco is usually a flaky, white fish such as tilapia, cod, or hake. These fish are delicate and perfect to toss into a tortilla along with some fillings, which is where one can get really creative.
On a tip from a friend who had recently made delicious fish tacos, I decided to pair my white fish with a Pico de Gallo (also known as Salsa Fresca) topping, made from tomato, onion, avocado, cilantro, lime, salt & pepper, cayenne, and paprika. I also made a simple cabbage filling to compliment the Pico de Callo and give the tacos some more substance.
Shopping for seafood can be challenging, especially when there are a plethora of options, both local and far from it! It is best to find a convenient fishmonger that sources its seafood from area fisherman, and ideally a market with a helpful and friendly staff. The New Deal Fish Market, Inc. has been providing “Fine Fish Since 1928,” out of their East Cambridge storefront at 622 Cambridge St, in Cambridge, MA. One can access the New Deal Fish Market from either the Lechmere Station on the Green Line, or from Harvard Square via the 69 Bus. The New Deal Fish Market sources their fresh seafood from fishermen around the Gulf of Maine, which includes the waters off Massachusetts, the coast of Maine, and Canada’s maritime provinces.
I asked the extremely helpful fishmonger, Jordan, what fish he would recommend for my tacos, as they did not have the tilapia my recipe called for. The answer: hake. As the main course of a dinner for five people, I purchased 2 pounds of the hake fillets. Hake, from the family Phycidae, and the order Gadiformes, which is the same as the cod and the haddock, is a white, flaky fish perfect for tacos. There are many ways to cook Hake: baking, sautéeing, frying, grilling, and while some seasoning is optimal, the fish does not need to be very seasoned in order to achieve a delicious result. I placed my hake fillets in a glass dish with some olive oil and salt & pepper, a perfect simple seasoning for this simple, easy to prepare, fish. I wrapped the dish in tin foil and began to work on the Pico de Gallo and the cabbage filling.
Pico de Gallo is quite simple to prepare, and as an easy, uncooked condiment, it is the perfect companion for my fresh hake. There are some variations between recipes, but all rely on the same basic foundation of tomatoes and onions. I also included cilantro, lime, garlic and avocado, which made my Pico de Gallo more substantial. First, I cut the four tomatoes in half, seeded them, and diced them. Then, I diced one large white onion and added it to my bowl. After removing the pits, I diced my two avocados and combined it with my tomatoes and onions. A key for the Pico de Gallo is finding fresh cilantro, and any farmers market should have at least one stand that offers locally grown, fresh cilantro for your recipe. I chopped up ½ a cup of cilantro, although some may prefer more or less depending on their tastes, and a small bowl of diced cilantro to serve with the tacos themselves is a great idea. After adding the cilantro, I minced a garlic clove and sprinkled into the Pico de Gallo along with some salt and pepper. The final touch is to squeeze a lime over the whole bowl, and with a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients together thoroughly; so all the ingredients are mixed completely! For some variation on the Pico de Gallo recipe, consider adding jalapenos, apple cider vinegar, cucumber, or radish.
Recipe for Pico de Gallo
-4 tomatoes, seeded, chopped
-1 onion, diced
-1/2 cup fresh cilantro
-1 fresh lime
-1 garlic clove, minced
-2 avocado, diced
-salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika
At this point, I placed my hake fillets in a frying pan, with some olive oil, skin side down. I cooked the fillets until the skin began to crisp, and once it was brown, I flipped the fillets and cooked them on their other side for around 5 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the hake fillets, you may have to cook the fish for longer or shorter, a general rule of thumb is that once the fillets begin to break up easily, revealing their flaky nature, the fish is ready to eat!
As an extra filling for my tacos, I chopped up a head of fresh cabbage into long, thin strips. These strips should be fairly small as you will be using them as filling on top of the fish, and the Pico de Gallo, and you don’t want to overstuff your taco! After chopping the cabbage, I combined it in a bowl with salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar. After mixing with a wooden spoon, I was almost ready to eat!
Recipe for Cabbage Filling
-1 head fresh green or red cabbage
-salt and pepper
-apple cider vinegar
The final step was to heat my whole wheat tortillas in a frying pan, until slightly browned on each side. Some people like hard shell tacos, but for fish tacos, I prefer the soft tortilla, which is a convenient wrap for the fish and toppings. I prepared a bowl of the hake, using a spatula to chop the fish up into flaky bits, brought the tortillas, my Pico de Gallo and the cabbage to the table and it was time to assemble and eat. Anyone present will surely attest to the fact that this was an easy, heathy, and seasonal delight. Time to head to your local fishmonger and hunt down some hake!