Mark Bittman: Fish Tacos with Wilted Cabbage

By Freya Bellin

There’s something about fish tacos that just screams summer to me, and, true to form, the flavors in this taco are fresh, simple, and nearly beachy. Tomatillos are a great choice here if you can find them. They taste fruitier than a tomato, and very tart and crisp, almost like a Granny Smith apple. The tomatillo and avocado combo makes a great simple salsa, and serves as a nice contrast to the soft, slightly spicy cabbage. I used purple cabbage for the color, but green cabbage would work also. For the fish, any thick white fillet is fine. I used a combination of halibut and striped bass, but go with whatever looks freshest. A cold beer (and a beachfront view) makes this meal even better. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Fish Tacos with Wilted Cabbage

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Fish tacos in soft corn tortillas, a Cal-Mex standard, are usually served with shredded raw cabbage as a garnish. But if you stir-fry the cabbage with a little fish (or shrimp if you prefer), the flavors blend together nicely and the vegetables gain a silky-yet-crunchy texture that folds perfectly into the tortilla.

This quick cooking technique works on all sorts of combos; just make sure you cut the fish, meat, or whatever into bite-size pieces and grate, shred, or finely chop the vegetable.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 fresh hot chile (like jalapeño), seeded and minced, optional

About 8 ounces firm white fish, cut into 1-inch chunks

Salt and black pepper

1 large head cabbage, (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), cored and shredded

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon chili powder

12 corn tortillas

1 cup chopped ripe tomato or tomatillos

1 avocado, skin and pit removed, cubed, optional

1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chile if you’re using it, along with the fish; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the fish is opaque and just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and raise the heat to high.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan along with the cabbage, 1 to 2 tablespoons water, and another sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until the cabbage just begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, and fish. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

3. Warm the tortillas one at a time in a dry skillet over medium heat (they take just a few seconds on each side), or wrap the pile in a damp kitchen towel and pop it in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds on high. Put 3 tortillas on each individual plate. Distribute the fish and cabbage mixture evenly over the tortillas, garnish each with tomato and avocado if you’re using it, and serve.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Pork Tacos. Substitute bite-size pieces of boneless pork loin or shoulder for the fish and use peeled and grated sweet potatoes instead of the cabbage. Garnish with 1 cup chopped radishes instead of the tomato or tomatillos and avocado.

From the award-winning champion of conscious eating and author of the bestselling Food Matters comes The Food Matters Cookbook, offering the most comprehensive and straightforward ideas yet for cooking easy, delicious foods that are as good for you as they are for the planet. The Food Matters Cookbookis the essential encyclopedia and guidebook to responsible eating, with more than 500 recipes that capture Bittman's typically relaxed approach to everything in the kitchen.