Friday, July 17, 2009

Surprise Taco Salad with a Fishy Twist


by Cal Orey

On Wednesday afternoon I was delighted to share a fun and impromptu prerecorded radio show "The Cooking Connection" with pro Chef Jeff in Redding, California... We got off the topic of vinegar and olive oil and on the topic of fish and Mexican food. By the time the hour plus passed, I was oh so hungry and talking about my fantasy taco salad with its classic vegetarian ingredients from avocado, cheeses to fresh tomatoes, onions dressed with olive oil and vinegar. But the chef's words about fish grabbed my attention, too.
Later that night, I turned on Food Network and fish tacos were the topic. The crispy, crunchy tacos made by a variety of chefs would convert any strict vegan to splurging on tasty fish. As an intuitive, I see this as a mega sign. It's time to cook up a Fish Taco Salad. Doesn't the photo above make you want to do it?
This morning I rang up Gemma Sciabica, my fave Italian cook-author friend who lives in Modesto with her olive producing family. Now this woman can cook and bake--and she loves it. So, I asked her if I could borrow her Taco recipe and substitute fish. She suggested salmon--I can do that. (But I've been eyeing scallops, too. And the chef and I did talk shrimp.) "Why not combine all three?" I thought. So, I grabbed one of Gemma's cookbooks and there it was--Taco Salad. Whether it is fishy or fate, either way, I grabbed it and here's my catch...[with my fish variations and optional all-natural fave items in brackets.] I predict you'll enjoy this recipe as much as I will.
Fish Taco Salad
1 cup chayote cooked, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes (for garnish)
2 cilantro sprigs (for garnish)
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion chopped
1 small head lettuce, shredded [spinach and romaine greens]
1/2 bag tortilla chips (corn) 8 ounces
2 avocados, diced
1 pound [a mix if you prefer] salmon, scallops, pre-cooked shrimp
1 cup jicama, shredded
1 cup olives, sliced
1 or 2 jalapeno, minced
1 carrot, shredded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of cumin
In large skillet over medium heat brown scallops and shrimp, onions and garlic in olive oil, cool. [In 400 degree oven (I live in high altitude) bake salmon for about 15 minutes till done. Don't forget to drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon.]
In large salad bowl add remaining ingredients, poor dressing over and toss gently. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and cilantro sprigs. [I love the look of the tortilla shell as they serve in restaurants. I prefer to use the whole grain flour tortilla and fry it till crisp. Note: A Tortilla Shell Deep Fryer Basket can make this task easier. Cost: About $20. (I once worked in a Mexican restaurant and detested this chore. It wilted my curls. But I'd love one and a waffle maker. On wish list.)] Serves 4 to 6.
1/3 cup Marsala Olive Fruit Oil (or to taste)
2 garlic cloves (or to taste) minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or basil
pinch of oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup lime juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon taco seasoning mix [Try to find an all-natural variety]
Combine all dressing ingredients in jar of blender, whirl until blended. Pour into glass covered container, keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Source: Cooking with California Olive Oil: Treasured Family Recipes by Gemma Sanita Sciabica
P.S. I hope I got the title right of the cooking show. It should air tomorrow in Redding (in the sci-fi film 10.5 it's the place where the train disappeared in a hidden fault) at 10:00 A.M. on AM radio.


  1. Share your experience with the best fish taco you've had. Homemade or in Mexico or?

  2. The show did go on, I heard from the producer just the other day; will be back to talk about the wonders of chocolate. I didn't get to hear it but Redding folks did hear the live show with the chef and myself dishing out info on vinegar, cooking, fish, and more. It was fun.