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Fish Tacos: Rediscovering Seafood

The first 18 years of my life were spent just a stone’s throw from the ocean. I grew up just a 20 minute drive from a real beach. Summers were spent on the water surrounded by farmlands. I’ve built more sandcastles than I can remember and stung by jellyfish I’ll never forget.

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For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick. I always clarify this as just north of Maine so people don’t think I grew up in New Jersey.

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I didn’t wander too far for university (100 miles to be exact). And these past five months have been the first time in my life I haven’t been a short drive from salty air.

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I have to admit, I have not bought fish since moving to Ontario. I grew up next to the Lobster Capital of the World where shellfish was literally eaten right off the boat. Fried clams, lobster rolls, fish n’ chips, clam chowder, mussels dipped in butter. These are things that Maritimers take a lot of pride in. They are things I grew up eating on the regular and never really thought twice about.

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However, it seems my Maritime upbringing has failed me.

I unknowingly was missing out on one of the greatest seafood dishes of all.

Fish tacos.

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I blame the British influence in the East. It wasn’t until I travelled to the other ocean that I learned there was a whole culture of seafood I was missing out on. Namely, Mexican.

Canada, we have got to get into this Mexican thing.

While at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco, I attended a breakout session hosted by Alaskan Seafood. Susan Milliken, of Border Grill fame, demonstrated a couple varieties of her famous fish tacos. I was immediately hooked.

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I got to try the fish tacos at the Tasting Pavillion and fell in love. The soft tortilla, flaky fish, chunky and spicy salsa with the cool sour cream. It was the perfect combination of textures and flavours. Not to mention an utter mess to eat.

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Needless to say, I’ve been thinking of these fish tacos ever since. I’m no longer in the Maritimes, or on the West Coast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring a little spice to Mid-Eastern Canada.

I started with the above taco…

Haddock Fish Tacos with a Cucumber Citrus Salsa.

We were given recipe cards for the tacos and I totally lost them. No bother. It made recreating them even more fun. I had to do it from just one tantalizing memory!

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I began with the salsa:

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium orange, segmented and chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 jalepeno, minced (I’m sure Susan used a different pepper, but regular grocery stores in Canada don’t carry many choices!)
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro

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I didn’t want a whole bunch of salsa leftover, so I started small. Since all I could remember was the cucumber and orange from the recipe, I just went with what sounded like usual salsa ingredients for the rest!

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But I need to work on my segmenting skillz. And a sharper knife.

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I prepared the salsa the day before as these things usually taste best when they’ve had time to sit and mingle flavours.

The fish however, I was not on the ball with.

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The Alaska Seafood people encouraged buying frozen fish. It’s usually flash frozen at its freshest, whereas the stuff in the fish market of your grocery store could be up to two weeks old! I went for Wild Pacific Haddock. Rather than defrosting it slowly like you’re supposed to, I let it thaw in hot water.

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Then pan fried until just cooked. I do not like my fish overcooked at all so this is a step I’ve actually gotten pretty good at.

The key to my homemade fish tacos were the tortillas. I made those too!

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I’ve actually done this before and it’s super simple. I really don’t know why more people don’t do it. Three ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup hot water

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Some people let it sit for a little bit. But by this point I was hungry and got to rolling.

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Apparently, something else I need to work on.

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Cooked in a medium-heat pan until brown and bubbly.

Here’s where some of Susan Milliken’s tips came in handy. To soften the tortilla before eating, quickly dunk it in water to make it more pliable. Then, when assembling your taco (or whatever you may have) put lettuce on the bottom to prevent the juicier ingredients from soaking through the tortilla.

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I lettuce-d like a good girl, placed my flaky fish down, spooned a heap of salsa over top, and finished with a dab of plain yogurt.

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First, the tortillas. Best idea ever. You could taste the better quality and they really brought the whole thing up a notch.

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The salsa turned out fantastic. I am so proud of this little cucumber citrus salsa and can see myself making it time and time again! It’s so simple, versatile, and sounds way fancier than it really is.

The fish? Weellll, it’s not quite “off the boat” good. But not too shabby for my first inland foray into seafood. I can say fish tacos will definitely be added to my regular rotation of seafood dishes. I’ll be sure to whip up a batch for all my fellow fish lovers back home. Chased down with mussels drenched in a butter sauce of course ;)

Speaking of which – 29 days until I go home for Christmas.

Not that I’m counting down the hours or anything.

 

Question of the Day: Let’s talk fish tacos. Have you had them? Favourite kind or combination?

Tourist For A Day

My oldest sister is so cute.

She and I are very alike in some ways. We both laugh the same way at the same things, we share a mop of unruly hair, and a love for cinnamon rolls.

However, she is also very different from me. More motivated, driven, passionate. And apparently requires less sleep than I. This is why I thought she was a madwoman when close to midnight last night, she suggested we set the alarm for 6am to go run before she left for work.

I am a princess and require my 7-8 hours every evening otherwise I get cranky and anxious and all around miserable. Sara however lives off 6 hours every single night. She says it’s the only way she has time to work out in the morning. When I suggested going to bed at 11pm instead of midnight every night, she claimed “I’d never thought of that before.”

Ahhh, to be ambitious.

The tables definitely turned this morning when it was her getting my lazy butt out of bed to run (I’m usually that annoying person saying working out at an ungodly hour “will be funnnn!”)

She took me on her usual loop, full of steep hills I would normally avoid, but beautiful sights I would also normally miss. And while I didn’t really wake up until my heart maxed out at 178bpm somewhere around mile 3, I should probably thank her for getting me up. But next time, we’re going to bed earlier ;)

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Post run breakfast is the same thing I have every day. It’s what I craaaave.

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A fruit salad made up of plum, banana, pear, cherries, honey and cinnamon.

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And those runny egg yolks. Get me every time.

Because I was up and running first thing this morning, I waited until I was alone after breakfast to do my 20 minutes of meditation per my Challenge of Silence. I was actually nervous for my first day of meditation, not knowing what to expect. I set my cellphone alarm to go off after 20 minutes, and promised myself I wouldn’t open my eyes to look at the time. I perched on the sofa and sat in dead silence the whole time.

What did I do? A body scan. One of the main reasons why I’m so excited to start this is to get in touch with what my body is feeling. I’m keeping a journal of my meditation experience each day… and here are some things I noted on my first day:

  • I have a tickle in my throat that I didn’t notice up until this point
  • My hands feel very warm
  • My lumbar spine is under stress

Not bad, eh? Surprisingly the 20 minutes flew by and suddenly I could hear the distant noise of my cellphone alarm. As a side note, I am also really hoping this experiment in meditation will help me cope with my social anxiety, seeing as now is a time when I need to manage it the most.

I also hit up a Hatha Yoga class at noon to get in a few sun salutations for summer solstice ;) I am loving this 2-week pass I have!!

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Lunch featured something I found in my sister’s freezer…

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Pipsi, aka dried arctic char, that she bought while in Iqualuit, Nunavit. I know, how cool is it she got to go to Nunavit!?

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I ate it on a bagel with hummus. Verrry interesting! More like “fish chips.” The only seasoning on them is salt, and you couldn’t really taste it. Odd, because I’m so used to dried meat being so salty!!

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Milk chocolate hazelnut Lindt?? Yesplease.

Today I also played tourist.

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Canada’s Parliament!! For those you who may not know, Ottawa is Canada’s capital, and this is where all the governmental happenings…err… happen.

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That would be a stage they are building on Parliament Hill for the Canada Day celebrations on July 1st. Thank goodness I am leaving here on June 30th. That is a mess I do not want to be a part of (aka thousands of dudes drunk off Molson).

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Parliament has three main buildings – the East Block, Center Block and the West Block. I took a  free tour of the Center Block. It was pretty lame, but I did get to see some notable spots.

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Don Newman fans may recognize this location. It’s often where reporters gather to pounce on members of Parliament as they exit the House.

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As we approached the House of Commons, a young girl beside me said “Hey! It’s the green room on TV!”

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Not surprisingly, it was way smaller than expected. And the chairs looked really uncomfortable. No wonder they get so cranky by the time Question Period rolls around…

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Back in the day when Ontario and Quebec were known as the “province of Canada” and before the Western provinces were part of it at all.

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Unfortunately, Pamela Wallin was nowhere to be found near the Senate Chamber.

Up top there was a beautiful view of Ottawa!!

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That my friends, is what I’ve been running next to since coming to Ottawa. Actually, you can see part of the trail we were on this morning to the left of the photo!

All this tourist work stirred up my appetite.

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A High Protein Banana Maple Bar. Pretty dense, and surprisingly filling! 

However, it was late by the time my sister got home and we were simply staaarving. The gorgeous day called for one thing: drinks on a patio.

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Sangria – the only way I like to drink wine.

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I ordered the Gringo Chicken: A grilled, marinated chicken breast. Served with Mexican rice, black beans, salad, avocado slices, and a side of tomatillo sauce.

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Of course, I dumped the green salsa all over everything and mixed it all up to create a big messy plate (minus the avocado – I’m “allergic”). Delicious!

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Sara got the vegetarian enchiladas which were also very good. Although I still think the sangria was my favourite part ;)

After dinner we went out to another pub patio for drinks with Sara’s friends. Their excuse for drinking on a Monday night was that it’s summer solstice – good enough for me!! :)

 

Question of the Day: What is your favourite thing to order at a Mexican restaurant? I actually lovelovelove taco salads.

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