Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Trio of Fish Taco Condiments

For my last meal at home, I opted for fish tacos. This is a meal that my family has only recently—in the last few years or so—started to make regularly. Although certain elements are always constants—the fish of course, good spicy salsa, and my mom’s cheese dip—I like to make different condiments to go alongside. Since we eat fish tacos most often in the summer, I also prefer to take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables. The fresh toppings just taste better in the summer, offering cool contrasts to the spicier fish and salsa.
Usually the condiments are a reflection of whatever we happen to have in the refrigerator at the moment. Case in point: this pineapple and cucumber relish. The pineapple is sweet and juicy while the cucumber offers a crispness and crunch. A little hot sauce rounds out the flavors, and salt (ever the culinary workhorse) brings out the sweetness and juices in the pineapple and cucumber.
The guacamole is usually on the table but it’s taken me a while to get it just right since there are so many factors at play in guacamole. The texture should be creamy but not so smooth that it’s pureed (on the other hand, it shouldn’t be too chunky). I also like the contrasting texture that tomatoes provide: they lend a savory flavor that pairs well with avocado and their juiciness also smooths the guacamole out. In terms of seasoning, I usually go with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and dashes of cumin and cilantro (either dried or fresh). The cumin and cilantro are takeaways from my mom, who has instilled in me the proper way to make guacamole and perfect cheese dip, among other things.
The final condiment, a creamy carrot salad, is my homage to the coleslaw or cabbage that is often served with fish tacos on the West Coast. It’s utterly simple, equal parts creamy, sweet, and crunchy. I love the idea of a carrot salad, but not the heavy mayonnaise dressing that usually adorns it. My solution? A tart yogurt dressing with fresh citrus that pairs perfectly with grilled fish. 

In fact, my favorite part about these condiments is that they are as good complementing a fish taco as they are as dips for tortilla chips or vegetables, with chicken or shrimp, on sandwiches, and of course—like you even need to ask—on their own. Sometimes I’m more tempted by the fish taco accompaniments than the fish tacos themselves, but I’m not sure there’s such a thing as Fish Taco Condiment Night. Not yet anyway.

Pineapple and Cucumber Relish
This relish is wonderful with fish tacos, but it’s also great with other seafood like shrimp or scallops or with chicken. Alternatively, serve it as a dip with chips or crudité for a new take on fruit salsa.

Yield: about 2 cups

½ medium pineapple
¼ cup cucumber, diced into ½-inch pieces
Kosher salt
Hot sauce, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped assorted fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint

Dice ¾ of the pineapple into ½-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl. Grate the remainder on the small holes of a box grater. The pineapple will break up and become very juicy and pulpy. Transfer pineapple pulp and all juice to medium bowl with diced pineapple and add cucumber. Season pineapple and cucumber liberally with salt. Add hot sauce to taste (I go with 4 or 5 dashes). Add chopped herbs.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 or 5 hours. Serve chilled. Leftovers will keep, covered well and kept in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.


Guacamole is most aesthetically pleasing when served right after it’s made, lest the avocado oxidize and turn a murky greenish brown. I’ve tried all the “secrets” designed to ward off this unwanted effect, from adding acid to the guacamole to storing it with an avocado pit, and nothing has ever worked. Luckily, leftovers stored in the refrigerator taste just as good, if not better, than freshly made guacamole, and only the surface of the guacamole oxidizes. Simply stir the guacamole a bit and it will be almost as green as new. 

Yield: about 2 cups

2 ripe Haas avocados
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ medium tomato, diced into ½-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon dried cilantro or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium bowl, mash avocados with a fork until creamy but some chunks still remain. Add lemon juice and tomato and stir to combine. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce (I go with 4 to 5 dashes), to taste. Add cumin and cilantro and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Leftovers will keep, covered well and kept in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

Creamy Carrot Salad
I use Greek yogurt in the dressing because we have it on hand more often than plain yogurt. However, you can use plain yogurt and omit the water. To shred the carrots, peel them first and then grate on the large holes of a box grater. 

Yield: about 2 cups

2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon water
½ teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2 cups shredded carrots

In a medium bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, lemon juice, water, and sugar. Season well with salt and pepper. Add carrots and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 or 5 hours. Serve chilled. Leftovers will keep, covered well and kept in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.


  1. love the photos!! your condiments are my favorite part of fish tacos..and I enjoyed the last of the carrot slaw for dinner tonight. on its own. it was delicious!!

  2. pineapple and cucumber-i'd never thought of that-i love fish tacos and these toppings are a great suggestion.

  3. Yum! I've heard running the avocado under cold water right before slicing can help! We also make our guacamole with some peas - they hold their green color and it makes it a bit healthier!