Recipe: Every season is taco season

Lynda Balslev | TasteFood

In the middle of winter — also known as the dark and cold lull between holiday festivities and the hopeful warming signs of spring — the days are often spent seeking indoor diversions, while our imaginations lead us to warm and sunny destinations. Look no further than the kitchen for immediate real-life respite. It may be yucky outside, but we can bring fun and lightness to our dinner with a heap of fresh and messy food, where all the attention is focused on the kitchen table — essentially, the center of our winter universe.

It's time to make tacos.

These fish tacos give a green light to eating with our hands. They are bright and healthy, inviting everyone to dig in and assemble their own food. They are wonderfully flexible, too, combining year-round ingredients with a smattering of easy toppings and drizzles that can be prepared in advance, along with an optional salsa fresca that can either be homemade or store-bought. Choose lean, mild-flavored white-fish fillets that are firm and flaky when cooked, such as halibut. Mahi-mahi, snapper, lingcod, sea bass and grouper are good alternative choices.


Active time: 40 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes, plus standing time

Yield: Makes 8 tacos


• 1/2 small head red cabbage, shredded

• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

• 2 thin scallions, thinly sliced

• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 teaspoon honey

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


• 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

• 1 small garlic clove, pushed through a press

• 1/2 teaspoon honey

• 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha

• Pinch of kosher salt

Salsa Fresca (optional):

• 8 ounces grape tomatoes or Roma tomatoes, finely chopped

• 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped

• 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

• 1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a press

• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• Pinch of sugar, optional


• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1 1/2 pounds center-cut halibut fillets, cut in 1-inch strips

• Extra-virgin olive oil

• 8 (8-inch) flour or corn tortillas, warmed or toasted

• Avocado slices, cilantro sprigs and lime wedges for serving

1. Make the slaw: Combine the cabbage, cilantro and scallions in a bowl. Whisk the lime juice, oil, honey, cumin, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the cabbage and stir to coat. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

2. Make the crema: Combine the crema ingredients in a small bowl and stir to blend. Refrigerate until use.

3. Make the salsa (if using): Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine, then taste for seasoning. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop or refrigerate until use.

4. Prepare the tacos: Combine the cumin, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a small bowl. Place the fish on a large plate and lightly coat on all sides with oil. Sprinkle the spices over the fish, gently turning to coat.

5. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Arrange the fish in the skillet, without overcrowding and in batches as necessary. Cook until opaque through the center, 4 to 5 minutes, turning once with a spatula. Transfer to a platter.

6. To assemble, place 2 to 3 strips of fish on a warm tortilla. Top with some of the slaw and drizzle with the crema. Serve with avocado, additional cilantro, lime wedges and salsa fresca (if using).

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based in northern California. Visit TasteFood at


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