grilled fish tacos

This past weekend, I was struck by an irresistible craving for grilled fish tacos. So I did what any girl would do - hop on a bus to Jersey one day early for Mother's Day, commandeer my future in-laws' kitchen, and impose my craving upon the whole family.  

I had some people to persuade. Future mom-in-law Jill was amusedly skeptical about the whole concept, and I started to realize while we were in the supermarket that I was filling our cart with ingredients she would never voluntarily eat. Fish? A touchy subject, as it seems contingent on the type of fish (white only), the place (the fancier restaurants tend to get the fish just right), and her mood. Cilantro? She has always picked out the leaves and stems, leaving little piles of green on her plate. Poblano peppers? It took me a while to even get her past the fear of "burning" black pepper. 

After her third enunciation of the phrase "fish TACOS," I started to get the idea that maybe, just maybe, she was a little bit nervous. At the checkout line, I prodded and pushed, finally extracting the admission that she had "never heard of tacos being filled with fish!"

Sometimes I forget, as I think all food-lovers do, that the meals I consider normal, commonplace, and maybe even a bit boring are exotic, new, and challenging to others. As the torch-bearer for fish tacos, I felt pressure to make these particular tacos especially gorgeous to look at and delicious to eat. The challenge breathed new life into a meal I might otherwise whip up as a weeknight meal, and it made the thrill of a successful dinner taste even sweeter.

P.S. She loved it.

grilled fish tacos  adapted from Epicurious

1 cup chopped white onion
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided (3 for marinade, 2 for red cabbage)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound tilapia, striped bass, or sturgeon fillets (I used cod and it was perfect)
Coarse kosher salt

red cabbage slaw
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon milk
chile flakes

Corn tortillas
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, sliced
1/2 small head of cabbage, cored, thinly sliced
Lime wedges

Stir 1 cup onion, 1/4 cup cilantro, oil, 3 tablespoons lime juice, orange juice, garlic, paprika, cumin, and oregano in medium bowl. Sprinkle fish with coarse salt and pepper. Spread half of onion mixture over bottom of a glass baking dish. Arrange fish atop onion mixture. Spoon remaining onion mixture over fish. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Turn fish; cover and chill 30 minutes longer. 

Whisk Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, milk, and remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice in large bowl. Cut the red cabbage into shreds and toss with the yogurt mixture. 

Brush grill grate with oil; prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill fish with some marinade still clinging until just opaque in center, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Grill tortillas until slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side.

Coarsely chop fish; place on platter. Serve with the red cabbage slaw, tortillas, remaining 1/2 cup cilantro, avocados, and lime wedges. Feel free to modify the recipe to reflect your favorite Mexican condiments.


eating montreal

This post is only eight months late.  Better late than never, am I right?

After taking the bar, I languished around the house for a week, my soul having been drained of all happiness and light.  Rob waited until the worst of it was over and then made his big reveal: two tickets to Osheaga, a Montreal music festival with just about every act I had wanted to see for the last year AND a customized meal itinerary created through countless hours of research.  I've never been prouder.

Rob wanted to live at Dieu du Ciel microbrewery.  We went a total of three times over the weekend, and because we could never get the hours straight, we were always waiting outside the front door for it to open.  Rob loved his beers, and I was happy to watch him drink so long as those nachos were in front of me.  
Dieu du Ciel Microbrewery
259 rue de Villemure
St-Jérôme, Qc, J7Z 5J4
Open Monday to Thursday from 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM.
Friday and Saturday from 2:00 PM - 3:00 AM.
Sunday from 2 PM - 1:00 AM

I compare every bagel I eat to the ones at Ess-A-Bagel, my favorite Sunday morning haunt in New York. I'll ruin the surprise for you - they always fall far, far, short.  Montreal bagels are a different breed altogether - a tad sweeter, smaller in size, and less chewy.  We ate our everything bagels at a picnic table on a sunny morning, and forgot to draw any comparisons at all.

Fairmount Bagel
74, avenue Fairmount Ouest
MontrealQC H2T 2M2

What kind of couple are we?  The kind that leaves in the middle of Snoop Dog's first performance as "Snoop Lion" to go eat veal sweetbreads and duck heart tartar with foie gras shavings.  The entire menu is in French, but our awesome waiter translated every menu item with such warmth and excitement that we felt warm and fuzzy inside.  (Excuse those pictures - it was dark and romantic in there!)

Au Cinquieme Peche
4475 Rue St-Denis
MontrealQC H2J 2L2

I never order chicken when I'm out at a restaurant, but secretly I have an undying love for rotisserie chickens always.  They beckon to me under their glaring heat lamps at the even the crappiest of grocery stores.  The Portuguese roast chicken at Romado's is a must - juicy, garlicky, and perfect with a mountain of fries that beg to be dipped in the chicken grease.

Rotisserie Romados
115 Rue Rachel E
MontrealQC H2W 1C8

Do you ever feel like a restaurant just gets you to your very core?  That is how I feel about Au Pied de Cochon, a place that feels no shame about piling on slabs of foie gras and every other gluttonous fatty meat under the sun on a flakey, buttery crust or cooking a fat-slicked duck in a can with more foie and dumping it onto a plate at your table.  More foie for everyone!

Or creating this obscene sandwich of battered soft-shelled crabs with soft goat cheese, fresh zucchini, and drizzled with maple syrup.  How can something that sounds so wrong be so right?

Au Pied de Cochon
536 Avenue Duluth E
MontréalQC H2L 1A9

Covered in mud, sweat, and general music festival funk at 11:30pm, we took a cab to Schwartz's deli for these smoked meat sandwiches.  Thankfully, the night time crowd was weird-looking enough that we fit right in.  Bonus points for not having to wait in line!  Pure bliss. 

Schwartz's Deli
3895 St-Laurent Boulevard
MontrealQC H2W 1X9

Pâtisserie Rhubarbe is a bit out of the way in a residential neighborhood, but our long trek through the wind and rain was beyond worth it.  The caramel mille feuilles and the apricot-pistachio layered cake blew our minds.  Each flavor was thoughtfully captured and the execution was impeccable.  Best pastries I've had in Montreal by a long shot.

Pâtisserie Rhubarbe
5091 De Lanaudière
MontréalQC H2J 3P9


Oh Lallouz - if you only knew how many failed attempts we made to eat your food before finally getting a taste.  If there's one piece of advice I can give you about planning a meal in Montreal, it is to check whether or not it is open - especially in the summer!  On our third trip to Lallouz, we were handsomely rewarded with the $12 per person lunch deal, which included a a kebab each, unfettered access to delicious vegetable salads, pita, and mint lemonade.  

Lallouz Café & Kebaberie
4561 Boul.St-Laurent
1327 Rue St-Catherine Est

I should mention that, in addition to criss-crossing the city to eat all of this, we listened to some life-changing music, felt way too old to be there, and danced away all those calories.

As a final parting gift, we treated ourselves to a hand-picked selection of twenty macarons from the Point G stand at the Jean-Talon market.  They were gone by the time we pulled into our driveway.


P.S. My close friend and fellow inner fat girl has started a food Instagram account - follow her at foodtographer!!


kappo at ma peche...with puppies!!!

I am known for launching a full-scale investigation into everything I am about to eat.  Most nights, I fall sleep with phone in hand, looking up menus, reviews, and pictures of food that I envision myself eating in the near or distant future.  This applies not only to celebratory meals, or date nights out - but also to the $4 omelette I plan on getting from the deli next to my office, or the almond croissant I've already committed to spoiling myself with later this weekend.  Rob thinks it's neurotic, and I'm inclined to think that he is right.

When I first read about the new Kappo counter at Má Pêche a few weeks agoI was shocked how little information there was to be found, despite my best researching efforts.  Believe it or not, there are people out there even crazier than me and before every momentous meal, I usually spend hours drooling over their professional-quality pictures and  meticulous descriptions.  But for Kappo there was no information at all, except for the fact that they had just begun offering a 10-course menu with the price tag of $95 a person - a great value for a 10-course meal, but expensive enough to make a risk-averse researcher like me reluctant.  I love David Chang and all he does (I fantasize about him catering my wedding), but I decided to wait it out until I could read more reports from others.

The next day, I realized that I had completely forgotten our four year anniversary.  I felt terrible, made a reservation, and pretended like I had planned it for weeks.  

It. Was. Awesome.  I am incredibly fortunate to have tried a fair number of tasting menus in this city.  Some of them may have had more life-changing food, but Kappo stood out for being bold, unpredictable, and fun.  Chef Carmichael is completely chill and personable, making it the least fussy and pretentious tasting I've ever had.  Normally I would be all up in those plates with my camera like a typical hipster taking pictures of food, but I was so engaged in my meal and the surroundings that I kind of just lost myself in the moment.  Isn't that one of the best compliments you can give to a restaurant?  It was an adventure from beginning to end, and if you're still dying to be surprised in an age where everyone has tweeted, instagrammed, and written a 1000-word essay about their meal at Eleven Madison (the pot calling the kettle black), then get here quick.

So here is an account of what we ate, accompanied not by fuzzy IPhone pictures with bad lighting, but by pictures of puppies!  Each puppy's level of happiness corresponds with my happiness with that particular course (you might note that they're all pretty darn happy).  

1st course: 
John Dory with kombu and horseradish

2nd course:  
Cobia with pickled jalapeno and pear

3rd course: 
Squid with popcorn, brown butter, chrysanthemum...
so strange and insane that it made absolute sense.

4th course: 
Lobster with cucumber, habanero, and breadfruit

5th course: 
Challah bread with smoked duck fat and salt...
freshly baked in a small oven around course two or three and placed in front of you gorgeously browned and steaming.  

6th course: 
Congee with quail egg, shrimp, and mushrooms

7th course: 
Barbecued pig tail with scrambled eggs, scallion, and peanut

8th course: 
Mofongo with garlic and chiccharon.  
I don't want to ruin any surprises but be prepared to 
roll up your sleeves and  get involved in this one.

9th course: 
Striped bass baked in a salt crust with herbs, dill chips, and lemon

10th course: 
Peanut butter frozen mousse with apple, elderflower, and meringue.

I haven't even mentioned the other little snacks and palate cleansers that delighted us in between courses.  Let's just say Chef Carmichael is the kind of guy that sneaks in a bite of luxurious uni as a bonus.  The menu changes according to availability of ingredients, the season, and whatever the hell Carmichael feels like making.  There are only eight seats at the bar, and only one seating per night.  If you want to taste what it is that made all these puppies so damn happy, get on making that reservation.

(I'm thinking the world might be a better place if we just start using puppy pictures for no particular reason at all.) 


kitchenless..but still hungry

Well, it's been a long, long time and lot has happened.  I graduated school, moved back home, took the bar exam, lost fifteen pounds, passed the bar exam, ate all of the above, gained five pounds, got engaged, started a job in New York, and moved to an apartment...WITH NO KITCHEN.  Don't ask me to explain...it hurts enough as it is.  

Given that last bit of unfortunate news, I suppose that it seems like a strange time to start a food blog back up again.  The truth is that the routine of working a full time job has left me aching for that sense of escape I got from my continuous, and sometimes neurotic, obsession with food. 

In trying to figure out a new direction for salt and love, I realized that, in a somewhat enlightening moment, that it never had a true direction to begin with.  All I ever wanted to do was document my love life with eating and food, so that one day, when I am old, senile, and inevitably obese, I can look back on this blog through my Google specs and relive my dearest memories of stuffing my face.  

So, kitchen or no kitchen, onward and upwards we go!


eating san francisco

When I travel, I'm much less concerned with the must-see tourist sites than I am with I'm about to eat.  I figure that the best way to see and really experience a place is to zig-zag across town to get from one meal to another.  In preparation, I spend way more time than is normal poring over Chowhound message boards, digging up old bookmarked Serious Eats posts, and looking up any old friends in the area to mooch off their expertise.  

We spent four glorious days in San Francisco last week.  All this time I thought I was an angry tense New Yorker who thrived on that certain cynical edge you can't find anywhere else.  Now I'm not sure who I am anymore.  Maybe what I really need is a bike, a puppy, and a good Acme baguette.

Anyways, while I deal with this inner turmoil, allow me to share the fruits of my researching labor.  By no means is this an exhaustive list -  I just couldn't physically eat any more.

Let's start with the obvious: In-N-Out.  We may or may not gone there three times during our stay.  The first two times - a double double, animal style (pickles, extra spread, grilled onions, and mustard fried onto each patty) with an extra toasted bun and extra well-done fries.  I couldn't swing the double double the third time, so here is one sad patty as my final farewell to one of the finest chain burgers in the country.  (Shake Shack still holds the key to my heart.)

We picked up these tasty Italian sandwiches before eating them in one of the five thousand parks dotting the city, where we witnessed lots of dog running and a couple of drug deals. Molinari Deli in the North Beach area, 373 Columbus Ave (between Grant Ave and Vallejo St).

Left: Molinari Italian Special with the works. Right: fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, coppa, sun-dried tomatoes.
Tartine Bakery gets a lot of hype and I have to admit that although none of the flavors were particularly novel, the execution of these pastries is damn impressive.  We did our best to eat three of them (they're huge), and got some pretty incredulous stares while we stuffed our faces at one of the few sidewalk tables outside.  The famous morning bun was scented with cinnamon, sugar and orange zest, and was a beautiful play in textures with caramelized crunchy bits and pillowy insides.  The frangipane tart tasted just as we thought it would, but what really blew my mind was the pastry shell, which remained impossibly crisp and flakey beneath the moist almond paste.  The shell was also the star of the banana cream tart, the bottom of which was cleverly coated in dark chocolate and caramel.  Tartine Bakery, 600 Guerrero Street, Mission District. 


Top: morning bun. Middle: almond frangipane tart. Bottom: banana cream tart.
I had a hard time figuring out where we should go for Mexican, but I finally settled on a dive in the Mission called Taqueria Vallarta.  And by dive, I mean discovered by mustached hipsters but also populated with locals in the area.  It's a full restaurant with a taco cart tucked into the front corner; we never made it past that little cart.  The man behind it valiantly dipped corn tortillas in a bit of water to order, steamed them quickly on a flat top, and scooped up stewed meat from a glorious meat wheel.  We ordered a cabeza (head), lengua (tongue), buche (pork neck), carnitas, al pastor, and suadero (tender beef).  We couldn't tell which was which, but does that ever matter when you're eating the best tacos of your life?  Taqueria Vallarta, 3033 24th Street (between Balmy St. and Treat Ave.), Mission District. 

I had heard and read some good things about Pizzeria Delfina, but secretly, I was highly doubtful.  After all, I studied in Rome for six months, and then lived in New York where I gorged regularly on Motorino, Co., Fornino, and the like.  But this was some majorly good Neapolitan pizza; so good, in fact, that we managed to eat two of them within a mere hour after those tacos (the other one - a broccoli rabe pie with caciocavallo cheese and olives).  Yet again, I was knocked over on my skeptical elitist ass.  Pizzeria Delfina, 3611 18th St. (between Guerrero & Oakwood St.), Mission District. 

Napoletana pizza: tomato, anchovies, capers, olives, hot peppers, oregano, and added cheese
During his layover in SF, Anthony Bourdain made a stop at a tiny fifteen-stooled place called Swan Oyster Depot where he ordered crab back off the menu.  I drooled as I watched him dip his crusty sourdough into that pool of murky yellow liquid, a buttery complex mixture of crab guts euphemistically known as the "mustard."  After waiting in line for half an hour, I planted myself on one of those coveted stools and ordered the same.  I threw in a combination seafood salad for good measure, since that seemed to be the popular choice among the locals.  Who knew a sloppy pile of seafood smothered with a creamy Thousand Island-like condiment (dubbed "Louie" sauce) on a big mound of shredded iceberg lettuce could be so comforting and delicious? Swan Oyster Depot, 1517 Polk St. (between California St. and Sacramento St.), Nob Hill.

The Ferry Market certainly doesn't need any more publicity, but I feel compelled to mention the amazing lunch we cobbled up there.  First, an ode to the Acme baguette - the perfect (and I mean perfect) vehicle for the two small squares of goat's milk cheese the staff at Cowgirl Creamery curated for us, and the sexy meat cone lined with mortadella, salami, and coppa from Boccalone.  Added a steaming container of mac and cheese and a fizzy vanilla egg cream from Cowgirl to make it a balanced meal. Ferry Market, One Ferry Building.

We had a positively earth-shattering meal at Mission Chinese, a ridiculous hipster scene in an unassuming storefront with a broke-ass yellow awning.  We arrived at eight o'clock on a Thursday night and joined the mustached crowd, who had scribbled their names on a clipboard attached to the front window and all seemed to be brown-bagging it outside on the sidewalk.  An anxious hour went by before we were summoned inside to a dimly lit room with a red paper dragon snaking along the ceiling, which accounts for the poor phone pictures.  In typical fashion, we ordered way too much (our waitress kind of rolled her eyes), but I REGRET NOTHING.  If I lived near this place, I'd be there once a week.  By the end, our eyes were watering and we felt high on spice and exhilaration.  Mission Chinese (Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant), 2234 Mission St., Mission.

savory egg custard with sea urchin, scallops, winter melon, and citron

cold poached chicken breast, seared chicken hearts, and szechuan pepper

kung pao pastrami with chili, potato, celery, and peanuts. amazing... 
smoked beef brisket noodle soup with cheung fun, bok choy, and cardamom broth.
not pictured: thrice cooked bacon with rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, chili oil.
We left on a Saturday night, so our last hurrah was another trip to Ferry Market for their famed Saturday farmer's market.  As we browsed the row of white tents in the front of the building, I think I turned to Rob and snidely said something like, "Well, I feel good about the fact that the Union Square Green Market in New York is way bigger than this."  We turned the corner and realized that we hadn't even really entered the market yet.  There were stands and stands of produce, salts, spices, olive oils, jams, heirloom beans, dried tomatoes, and pickled everything.  The sting of humility was quickly extinguished by a mouthful of kimchi-laced hot dog blanketed in crispy chicharrones and a killer burger from 4505 Meats.  

I was further humiliated by this open-faced lox sandwich from Cap'n Mike's.  Surely this cheerful, long-haired non-Jewish hippie couldn't make passable lox - smoked fish is firmly in New York territory.  Each bite was joyous and painful; It really wasn't supposed to be that good, but it was - an apt analogy for our entire stay in San Francisco.   


pineapple and macadamia nut tart

I was this close to making a chocolate something-or-another as an end to our porchetta meal.  It would have been a fatal mistake.  Just one slice of that succulent pork belly can send even the greediest of gluttons running for a pair of stretchy pants.  Our stomachs and arteries thanked us (well, really, just me) when we sat down to something fruity, fresh, and bursting with sunshine.

I don't remember the last time I sought out a bag of macadamia nuts.  I feel like they've gotten a little lost in the shuffle as far as nuts go, since the almond and the walnut get so much attention for their healthy attributes.  I have no idea if macadamias are as "superfoody" as those other nuts - I'm guessing no - but what I can tell you is that after tasting this dessert, I really couldn't care less.  They impart their butteriness into both the crust and the filling of these tarts, and the honey-and-rum-coated pineapple slices just sweeten the deal. 

I was gifted this blowtorch in December and it's taken me two months to actually use it in an appropriate way.  Until this point, I had played with it longingly, every once in a while feeling its weight in my hand, pushing the button to produce that beautifully blue flame, and recklessly torching pieces of paper towel.  It's not even a necessary step for this recipe, but I saw an opportunity and I took it.

For those who don't know me, I'm severely allergic to all alcohol unless it's cooked out (yes, I feel sorry for myself too).  Even so, I flirted with death by topping these tarts with a dollop of Malibu-spiked whipped cream and some toasted coconut flakes.  Luckily for all of you, I lived to tell the tale of this tart's deliciousness - a crumbly shortbread-like crust beneath a smooth toasty nut filling and a lightly caramelized layer of bright tropical fruit.  You're welcome.

pineapple and macadamia nut tart recipe from Fine Cooking
makes one 9-inch tart 
(I halved the recipe to make two  -inch tarts.  I still had a little bit of crust dough left over, which I rolled into a cylinder, froze, sliced, and baked - delicious macadamia nut cookies.)

1/2 cup macadamia nuts, toasted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
1/2 cup (4 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten 

3/4 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 oz. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon light or dark rum (I used Malibu Rum and loved the coconut flavor it added)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 medium fresh pineapple (about 3-1/2 lb.), peeled, cut lengthwise into quarters, cored, and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons mild honey, such as clover
2 tablespoons light or dark rum 

CrustIn a food processor, pulse the nuts and sugar until finely chopped, 12 to 15 one-second pulses. Be careful not to overprocess; you want to keep some of the crunchy nut texture. Add the flour and 1/4 tsp. salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse just until the dough resembles coarse sand and starts to gather into clumps, about 8 one-second pulses. Drizzle the egg evenly over the mixture and pulse just until blended in, 5 to 6 one-second pulses. Do not overmix.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a disk (it will be very sticky). Wrap it tightly and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Using your fingers, press the dough evenly into the bottom (not the sides) of a 9-1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. If the dough sticks to your fingers, dip them in water. Freeze the crust for 20 minutes.

FillingIn a food processor, grind the macadamia nuts until they resemble coarse sand. Add the remaining filling ingredients and process until completely smooth, about 2 minutes.

AssemblyPosition a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Using a small offset spatula, spread the filling over the bottom of the tart shell, leaving a 1/4-inch border, and then sprinkle with the flour. Working from the outside in and leaving a 1/4-inch border, arrange the pineapple tightly in overlapping concentric circles over the filling. (Each circle should overlap the previous circle by 1/2 inch.) Use larger pieces of pineapple for the outer circles and smaller pieces as you work your way toward the center. If necessary, trim pieces to fit. You may not need all of the pineapple, but it’s better to use more rather than less, since it will shrink as it bakes.

Bake the tart, rotating the pan after 20 minutes, until the crust is light golden-brown, 30 to 35 minutes. If the edges brown too quickly, cover them with foil.
Meanwhile, combine the honey and rum in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until just slightly reduced, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Brush half of the honey syrup over the pineapple topping, taking care not to move the pineapple slices. Continue to bake the tart until the crust is deep golden-brown, 5 to 15 minutes more.  

Transfer the tart to a rack and brush a bit more syrup on the top (you may not use it all). If you have a blowtorch, fire up that baby and go to town!  It’s ok if the tart looks liquidy in the center; it will thicken and firm up as it cools. Let cool completely and serve.

Strong suggestion: top with rum-spiked whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.  It's like a trip to the islands.