Home Cooking: California Style x3

California-style tossed salad with avocado and grapefruit (photo credit: Better Homes and Gardens)

The following three recipes all say “California” to me. Two of the recipes were ones my mom made for us growing up, and one came from Cooking Light years ago. All three highlight fresh, local produce or other ingredients, and require a minimum of effort, all the better for spending more time out of the kitchen and outside.

Although I can’t eat salads, I always loved it whenever my mom made her avocado and grapefruit salad because I could eat every part of it except the lettuce (when I was little I would even lick the dressing off the leaves!). We had a free sources of avocados from the huge tree growing in my grandmother’s back yard and this salad was a favorite way to use them. The herbed butter was another family favorite and warm loaves of French bread slices that had been spread with the butter were always welcomed and asked for at potlucks. We also used the butter when baking or grilling chicken.

Although breaded and fried fish is typical in fish tacos, topped with a crema, I have always preferred these lighter tacos, made with freshly grilled fish and topped with a bright fruit salsa. They always remind me of easy backyard cooking or cookouts on the beach. The original recipe calls for peaches, but fresh mango works just as well. I’ve made them with both crispy shells and soft tortillas; both work equally well, although the soft tortillas should be doubled because the salsa is very wet.

CALIFORNIA-STYLE TOSSED SALAD

  • I head romaine lettue
  • 1 large grapefruit, peeled, sectioned, and the membrane removed from each section
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe avocados
  • oil and vinegar dressing
  • sourdough croutons

Wash, dry, and break the romaine leaves into pieces into a salad bowl. Break each peeled grapefruit section into two pieces, and add to the lettuce. Peel and cut the avocado into 2-inch pieces, and add them to the bowl as well. Toss the salad with the oil and vinegar dressing of your choice, and add the sourdough croutons just before serving.

CALIFORNIA-STYLE HERBED BUTTER

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 green onions, chopped (including green tops)
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • juice from one lemon

This can be made two ways: melt the butter and add the other ingredients, simmering until the basil and onion are soft, then spread on slices Italian or French bread and broil until lightly toasted. Or, slice a loaf of French or Italian bread without cutting all the way through. Brush the melted butter on one side of each slice, then wrap the loaf in foil and warm in the oven until ready to serve. Additionally, the butter can be kept refrigerated and used as needed.

The amounts of basil, onion, garlic, and lemon juice can be adjusted for personal tastes.

Grilled fish tacos with fruit salsa (photo credit: Feasting At Home)

CALIFORNIA-STYLE GRILLED FISH TACOS with FRESH PEACH SALSA

Peach Salsa:

  • 3 cups coarsely chopped peeled fresh peaches
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 3 TBSP minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp seeded and chopped jalapeno or serrano chili
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Grilled fish:

  • 1 pound firm white fish (sea bass, halibut, snapper, etc.) or ahi tuna
  • salt & pepper

Tacos:

  • 8 taco shells or 16 small flour tortillas (for tacos)
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage or packaged coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

To prepare the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss gently; set aside. Grill fish over medium coals about 6 minutes on each side until fish flakes easily with a fork; sprinkle grilled fish lightly with salt and pepper, then flake into large chunks using a fork and place in a bowl.

To prepare the tacos, warm the taco shells, then place some fish into each shell. Top each taco with about 1/4 cup salsa, then 1/4 cup cabbage and some chopped cilantro (or you can put the cabbage next to the fish and the salsa on top).