Chef Gilligan's fish tacos

Friday is World Environment Day.

This year the chosen city to celebrate this is Mexico City. Mexico is set to be one of the big economies of the 21st century, along with nations like China and India. Thus its ability to encourage the greening of the economy of neighboring nations — both North and South of its borders — will be significant.

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on June 5, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day’s agenda is to:

  • Give a human face to environmental issues;

  • Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;

  • Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;

  • Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

The theme for WED 2009 is “Your Planet Needs You — UNite to Combat Climate Change.” It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.

This year’s host, Mexico, reflects the growing role of the Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets.

Mexico is also a leading partner in UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign. The country, with the support of its President and people, has spearheaded the pledging and planting of some 25 percent of the trees under the campaign. Accounting for around 1.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the country is demonstrating its commitment to climate change on several fronts.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon states that the WED celebration will “further underline Mexico’s determination to manage natural resources and deal with the most demanding challenge of the 21st century — climate change.”

So, what can we do that is “green” and Mexican? Taco’s with Salsa Verde of course!

 

FISH TACOS

In Mexico, practically every meal is accompanied by a stack of fresh warm corn tortillas, much in the way that bread is served here in America. As you eat, you can wrap whatever is on your plate in a fresh tortilla, and voilá, you have a taco. Almost everything tastes good in a taco smothered with fresh salsa, and that goes for fish as well. Preparing a taco is much like preparing a sandwich; it's all in the assembly. For these fish tacos you will be preparing and then assembling the fish, the tortillas, the salsa, and the cabbage or lettuce.

Ingredients

1 lb of very fresh fish fillets - (Good fish for tacos are firm fish like swordfish or shark)

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

12 corn tortillas (3 tortillas per person)

Vegetable oil or butter (optional, depending on how you heat your tortillas)

1 ripe Avocado

Cabbage (or iceberg lettuce)

Cider vinegar

Salt

Method

Prepare the salsa. Either use store bought or make your own.

Thinly slice cabbage. Put in a small serving bowl. Sprinkle with cider vinegar (about a Tbsp) and salt (about a tsp). Mix in the vinegar and salt. Peel avocado and remove seed. Chop and reserve for later.

Heat the tortillas. Unless you have made fresh tortillas from scratch, you will need to soften them somehow. One way to easily soften and heat a tortilla to simply heat it in the microwave for 20-25 seconds on high heat, on top of a napkin or paper towel to absorb the moisture that is released. We often will heat two tortillas at once in the microwave, heating them for a total of 40 seconds.

Another way is to heat a well seasoned (black) large cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan or spread a half a teaspoon of butter on one side of one tortilla. Place tortilla in the pan (butter side down if you are using butter). As the tortilla sizzles, flip the tortilla with a spatula so that the other side gets some of the oil or butter from the pan. Continue to flip every 10-30 seconds until the tortillas begins to develop air pockets, about a minute. If the pan begins to smoke, lower the temperature. You can skip the butter or oil if you wish and just heat the tortillas up on the skillet without them. We have found that the flavor of packaged tortillas benefits from heating them with a bit of oil.

Remove the tortilla from the pan and place it folded on a plate. If the pan is large enough you can prepare two or more tortillas at once. Continue until all the tortillas (estimate 3 per person) are cooked. Set aside.

Cook the fish. Soak the fish fillets in cold water for at least one minute. Pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a large stick-free skillet to medium high heat. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Place fish on skillet. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillets. A thin fillet may take only one minute on each side to cook. A thicker fillet may take a couple of minutes. Fish should be still barely translucent when cooked. Break off a piece and test if you are not sure. Do not overcook the fish. Remove from pan when done to a separate plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the plate of tortillas, the plate of fish, the salsa, the cabbage, and the avocados on the table and let everyone assemble their own.

 

SALSA VERDE

Ingredients

10-15 tomatillos, halved

1 large Serrano chili

½ an onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, chopped

¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 avocado, quartered

2 limes

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Char the skin of the chili either in a flame or under a broiler. Place the charred chili in a paper bag for 5 minutes. Rinse off all of the blackened skin. Chop chili. Remove seeds for milder flavor.

Warning: Don't rub your eyes! Or go for a piss.

 Under a broiler or on a grill, roast dehusked, washed, and halved tomatillos until they are slightly caramelized.

Add tomatillos, chilies, onion, and garlic to a blender. Whiz until smooth.

Add juice of one lime, cilantro, and avocado. Pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.