Friday, June 22, 2012

Following the recipe: my summer project

I subscribe to a lot of cooking magazines. I know all about finding the best wines for under $20; I've read all about how to grill even though I live in Manhattan and will likely never own a grill; and I know all the tidbits about the best new chefs under 30. I like to look at all the perfect food pictures and I even look at the recipes. But what do I almost never do? Ironically, I almost never make anything I come across in a cooking magazine (or a cookbook for that matter, and I have plenty of those too). Growing up with a grandmother who made everything from her head, following a recipe somehow smacks of unauthentic cooking to me. I like putting "a little bit" or a "sprinkle" of this or that in my food, although trying to explain that in a recipe isn't easy.

Recently, I decided that one of my cooking experiments this summer would be to follow a recipe. Here's the first one I tried, and it was certainly worth it.

Fish Tacos with Watermelon Salsa
(from food network magazine)


  • 4 cups diced seedless watermelon
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound skinless wild striped bass fillet, tilapia or cod
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, thinly sliced
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 avocado, sliced


Make the watermelon salsa: Combine the watermelon, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and jalapeno in a bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.

Preheat a grill to high. Sprinkle the fish on both sides with the chile powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt; drizzle both sides with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Brush the grill with olive oil, then add the fish and grill until marked and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a plate and break into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, toss the lettuce with 2 tablespoons of the juices from the watermelon salsa and a pinch of salt. Warm the tortillas on the grill and fill with the fish, watermelon salsa, avocado and lettuce. Serve with lime wedges.

This is something I would never have made on my own, though it is something I order a lot when out. I was afraid that the watermelon salsa would make it too sweet, but it was just perfect. I used tilapia in this recipe but will try the cod or bass next time. And there will be a next time, but only after I've followed another recipe.

My history geek moment: It is believed that watermelon originated in southern Africa, though its seeds have been found in some 12th century (that's B.C.) burial sites of the pharaohs.

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