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Blackened Tilapia Tacos + Papaya Mango Poblano Salsa

There’s something about visiting your hometown to really ignite something in you. That happens nowhere quite like it does in Knoxville, TN. When we rolled into the downtown hotel to freshen our cosmetics before meeting my sister and her friend for a delightful meal of scallop BLT bruschetta (I can’t even talk about it without feeling seduced by its creamy, smoky sauce and perfectly succulent meat) and a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc, we looked out the window to survey our orange drenched homeland. In the most perfectly beautiful irony, what greeted our eyes instead were several members of the adult women’s softball tournament, that was also in town, playing beer pong at the hotel pool. See-through shorts, too small bathing suit tops, and white girl/boy/lady/thing corn rows included. Aaaah, yes, we were home. With the refrains of “Rocky Top” drifting repeatedly through my head, I feasted upon Shakespeare in the park, being watched enthusiastically by the good ole boys who had brought coolers of beer, consequent beer guts, and a vocabulary not regularly equipped with Shakespeare’s soliloquies. But nonetheless, touching my roots was glorious. Or maybe, maybe it was escaping Charlotte for 24 hours. But it must have been enhanced by that East Tennessee sweet air. And being surrounded by family – the people with whom I share a nose, eye shape, jaw line, and the tendency to greet people with an effusively drawn out, “Heeeeey!”

But then I came home-home. And this home is wonderful too. Because it includes my person. And my pups. So I made fish tacos with a cast iron. And those were more wonderful than I can explain in two dimensions. Yep. Our roots are vital to stay attached to, but the subsequent shoots and leaves we grow from them can be just as delicious.

Fish Tacos
Blackened Tilapia Tacos + Papaya Mango Poblano Salsa
For the salsa:
1/2 papaya
1 mango
1 poblano pepper
1 sweet onion
3/4 bunch of cilantro
Sea salt
Juice of 4 limes

For the tacos:
6 tilapia filets (I used 1 bag of frozen tilapia, which I thawed, because I had a coupon)
Sea salt
Cumin
Paprika
Cajun seasoning (I prefer Tony Chachere’s, but if you haven’t bought that yet, I can’t do it for you)
Neutral oil
Tortillas
Avocado
Shredded cheese

Roughly dice all ingredients for the salsa. Combine with lime juice. Stir, then side aside to chill and incorporate. Cut tilapia into large bite size chunks. Season fish generously with sea salt, cumin, paprika and Cajun seasoning (I didn’t measure… I just threw some seasoning in there until I liked the color and felt like the spice would be enough without being overpowering). Heat cast iron skillet on grill or stove. Once hot, add enough neutral oil to coat pan thickly. Heat about 3 minutes. Add tilapia to pan (be careful, the hot oil may splatter).  Cook until outside is seared and chunks are cooked through. Assemble tacos with shredded cheese, avocado, papaya mango poblano salsa and fish.

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