Grilled Fish Tacos with Cherry & Radish Salsa

The cherries are in season, so why not use them rather than an imported fruit?

Cherry salsa?

Why not? We often serve fish tacos with the popular mango salsa, and when I was thinking about making fish tacos recently, I knew I needed to come up with an alternate fruit because of an allergy –– my own! Cherries are in season, so they fit the bill. The farm stands and farmers markets are loaded with beautiful, spicy radishes as well, so this marriage seemed perfect.

The first time I ate a fish taco, I was sold; they are now my taco of choice. Light and bright, they taste like a relaxing afternoon by the shore.

Tacos have come a long way. When I was a teenager, my mother made our first tacos: hard shell, ground beef seasoned with a packet of mystery spices, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and jarred salsa. There was no heat, no variation, they were messy to eat, and we loved them!

My own kids loved them too, made pretty much the same way but using seasoned refried beans rather than ground meat.

A wide variety

You can still find the hard-shell taco kits in any market, but the variety of soft tortillas available has exploded over the years. The tortilla I found for this recipe was whole wheat and high fiber, but there are many types readily available as well, including blue corn which is quite tasty.

The first time I ate a fish taco, I was sold; they are now my taco of choice. Light and bright, they taste like a relaxing afternoon by the shore.

A delicious alternative to fried

Usually, the fish in this dish is fried, often deep-fried, but it’s summer and we love to grill, especially when we have a gathering. As long as we can save the fish from flaking and falling through the grates, we’ll have a much lighter version of the original.

Firm-fleshed fish includes monkfish, halibut, salmon, pollock, tuna, and tilapia, so use what is freshest at the market on cook day, and select something on the thick side, at least an inch. Monkfish is great in this recipe, and is readily available. Wild Alaskan salmon is in season right now and would be a good choice as well.

Careful cooking

You can use more tender fish such as cod or haddock, but you will need to cook it on a plank, mat, or in one of those hinged baskets for extra insurance they don’t fall apart. Of course, you can also use shrimp!

This recipe includes four parts: the grilled fish and vegetables, the slaw, the salsa, and the crema. The grilled vegetables not only serve to enhance the fish tacos, but offer a vegetarian alternative for any guests who don’t eat fish or have an allergy.

Get a cherry pitter

The recipe uses a lot of ingredients, but is really fairly quick to put together. Pitting the cherries is probably the most time-consuming part of the process, but you get to snack on a few while you are prepping them. I found a pretty good little pitter that does six at a time.

You can make all the components ahead of time and refrigerate until you are ready to grill. If it is raining, you can use a grill pan on your stove, or broil everything to save time, cooking the firm vegetables first because of their longer cooking time.

Japanese mayonnaise?

The Japanese mayonnaise is certainly not traditional in a crema, but I had picked some up at the co-op and thought I’d try it out in this recipe. I loved the combination of the yuzo flavor with the lime, but you can substitute regular mayonnaise and add some lemon zest in addition to the lime.

Adjust the heat according to what you like, or leave it out. If you don’t have hot paprika, substitute sweet and add a pinch of cayenne.

And if you are allergic to cherries, please substitute a mango!

pretty platter

Grilled Fish Tacos

In a small bowl combine:

  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. hot paprika
  • Pinch of salt and few grinds of fresh pepper

Mix everything together and rub over all sides of:

  • 1 lb. monkfish or other firm-fleshed fish
  • 2 sweet peppers, seeded and cut in quarters
  • 1 onion, sliced in thick rings
  • 8 ounces large mushrooms, large slice

Let the fish and vegetables hang out for 20 minutes or so while your charcoal works or your grill heats up to 350 degrees. If using charcoal, place the coals on one side of the grill to have hot and cooler sides.

Clean and oil the grates well. Don’t skip this step!

While the grill is heating, you will want to start warming your tortillas. Take a large piece of foil lined with parchment paper and wrap up:

  • 12 whole-wheat or blue corn tortillas, 6 inches

Place this packet on the warming shelf of the grill. If using a charcoal grill, wait until your fish is almost cooked before you place them on the cool side of the grate to gently warm.

If using a nice firm fish, place the fish directly on the well-oiled cooler side of the grate. If your fish is a little more tender, or if you have had a bad experience in the past, place it on a plank, grill mat, pan, or in a protective fish cage.

Add the vegetables to the hotter side.

Close the lid and cook for about seven minutes. Turn, and cook for just a few more minutes, but keep an eye on it, you don’t want it to overcook.

If your fish is thinner than an inch, check it at five minutes. When done, cut it into small strips or chunks, and cut up the vegetables into strips.

To assemble, place a little of the slaw in the bottom of the warmed tortilla, add some of the fish, and whatever vegetables you like. Top with the cherry and radish salsa, and drizzle with the yuzo crema. You can also lightly grill the tortilla, just keep a keen eye on it so it stays soft.

Simple Slaw

Use your favorite crisp cabbage in this simple slaw: green or purple head cabbage, or Nappa cabbage are always good and reasonably priced. Photo: Dorothy Grover-Read ©

Mix together:

  • 3 cups shredded purple cabbage
  • ½ cup diced purple onion
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar

Taste, and season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Fresh Cherry and Radish Salsa

cherry salsa
Cherry salsa? Of course, its sweetness add a lovely layer of flavor to this salsa created for fish tacos. Photo: Dorothy Grover-Read ©

Mix together:

  • ¼ lb. fresh pitted cherries
  • 1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper, minced
  • 1/3 cup minced purple onion
  • 4 large radishes, minced
  • 1/3 cup minced parsley
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice

Taste, and season with salt and pepper as you like.

Yuzu and Lime Crema

Mix together:

  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup Japanese yuzu mayonnaise
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice

Taste, and season with salt and pepper as you like.

© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read, The New Vintage Kitchen. 

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow! What an explosion of flavors! Everything sounds so delicious.

    1. Thank you Robin! This really is flavorful, and what I love about them is everyone in the family (including the vegetarian) loves them!

  2. Alicia says:

    Boy these look really good! I would never had thought to use cherries in a salsa, but you are right, we use mangoes all the time so why not. I love the idea of using the Japanese ingredient as well!

    1. Thank you Alicia, I’m glad you appreciate my little twists on the original idea. The Japanese mayonnaise was a big hit.

  3. sherry M says:

    hi dorothy
    i love fish tacos but i’m having a hard time getting my head around cherry salsa:-) I must give it a go sometime to check it out. Kewpie mayo is my very fave mayo of all time. Those clever japanese:) cheers sherry

    1. I know! It sounds really strange, but I took a leap of faith with this one. The cherry salsa is actually less sweet than the mango salsa we see everywhere. I think it is all about balance, there’s some heat as well as sweet, and some sour from the lime, and tang from the radish. I’m now putting the Japanese mayo on everything!

  4. Sounds, and looks delicious!

    1. Thank you so much. They quickly became a family favorite, and request of the teenagers!

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