Is it just me or was this past summer (sniff… past tense) the summer of the quick pickle for foodies? It seemed like all the cooking shows and blogs out there were talking about the variety of fruits and vegetables that you can set in a brine then have delicious pickles a few hours later. All the acidic, salty goodness of pickled food without the fuss of canning.
Which is why when the CSA box had a small sweet onion, two different colored carrots and the most beautiful radish of them all– the watermelon radish– my mind went into rote foodie mode and thought “pickle!” Even if you don’t love radishes, how can you not love the watermelon radish on pure beauty alone? It comes to you, looking like some cartoon character but when you cut it in half, and then into slices, you get these adorable miniature watermelon slices, all vibrant pink with a thin border of lime green.
But I digress… anyway, I sliced that onion, those carrots, and those beautiful radishes and tossed them in a mixture of red wine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. These pickles served double duty, food-wise: in a salad (with crumbled blue cheese, dill and plenty more lettuce from the CSA) and as a topper for these fish tacos.
When it comes to fish tacos, I always crave the crunch of the Baja style tacos, you know, pieces of battered and fried fish made even better with pickled vegetables and a creamy chipotle sauce. But since I was using lettuce to wrap these tacos, I thought I should continue with a healthier eating theme in how I prepped the fish. Having had recent success with panko breaded and pan-fried yumminess as an alternative to deep-frying, I decided to do that here, this time with a fillet of rock fish. Seasoned fingers of rock fish got the double dip treatment in flour and egg before getting rolled in panko crumbs then cooked in a hot skillet until crunchy and golden brown.
When it came time to assemble these tacos, I didn’t want to detract from the bright colors and acidic flavors of the pickled vegetables, so the only things I added were some slices of avocado and cilantro, the lime green color of the avocado enhancing the vivid, Technicolor vision of the pickles. Taken all together, you have crisp, refreshing lettuce, matched with crunchy yet firm fish, bright acid and tang from the pickled vegetables paired with creamy, buttery avocado. What more could you ask for?
Note: Any firm, white fleshed fish will do, so feel free to swap the rock fish for whatever is available and fresh near you. I’ve separated out the ingredients for the pickled vegetables as you can use them on a salad or on top of a burger or served alongside some BBQ, whatever you want.
Quick Pickled Vegetables
- 2 watermelon radishes, split in half and sliced into 1/8 inch thick half moons
- 1 small sweet onion, sliced into 1/8 inch half moons
- 1 medium orange carrot and 1 medium yellow carrot, sliced on a bias, 1/8 inch thick
- 2 cups red wine vinegar
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- Hot sauce, dill, cilantro, mustard seeds (optional)
Lettuce Wrapped Fish Tacos
- 16 oz fillet of rock fish
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1.5 cups panko crumbs
- canola oil
- 1 medium, ripe avocado, sliced
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 small head butter leaf lettuce
- pickled vegetables
To make the pickled vegetables, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and any other optional flavorings you like, in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until sugar and salt dissolves. Set in refrigerator for at least 3 hours before serving.
To make the fish tacos, heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil in the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and oregano. Sprinkle the spice mix evenly over both sides of the fish fillet and rub the spice mix into the fish. Cut the fish into pieces, one to two inches wide. Set up your breading station as follows: put the flour on a plate, followed by the beaten eggs in a large bowl, followed by a plate with the panko crumbs. Dredge the fish pieces in the flour, tapping off any extra before dipping the pieces in the egg. Roll the fish pieces in the panko crumbs until coated entirely. Cook the fish, in batches if necessary, in the skillet until browned on the outside and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side.
To assemble tacos, place one or two pieces in lettuce leaf and top with pickled vegetables, avocado slice, squirt of lime juice, and a sprinkle of cilantro.
CSA Count: 6
Watermelon radish, sweet onion, yellow carrot, orange carrot, butter leaf lettuce, cilantro