What else but…
The Mamas and the Papas, California Dreamin’
San Diego’s May grey and June gloom have been replaced by July blue sky. With Paris scorching in at 106°, the Netherlands at 104°, and the Midwest, South, and East Coast sweltering through a heat wave, San Diego’s high of 82°, with a soft ocean breeze coming in across the bay, is a daytime dream and a sleeper’s delight.
San Diego is the land of the hapless Padres, the grand, pink Hotel Del Coronado, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, flocks of graceful surfers in black wetsuits, sandy beaches from Chula Vista to Del Mar, Rubio’s Baja fish tacos, Old Town tamales, past home of the beleaguered Sea World orcas and current home to our friends the Fostermiglias and our nephew Andrew and his wife Ashley. We once carved out a small footprint here in a long, breezy California box house at the top of a hill with a killer view, but California has little or no patience with financial upheavals, so our brief sojourn ended when our project did. Luckily our dear friends leave the light on for us so we are still able to visit and wonder at our good fortune.
First up in the morning is a short drive to Pacific Beach—the Sweetie walks, I watch on a concrete bench high above the sand.
Beaches are egalitarian and it doesn’t matter if you have driven from Tijuana or La Jolla, parking is impossible, but the sun and the surf are free. Benches are rare, so I share with another watcher who usually has a story to tell. This morning I sat next to a formidable dude with visible ink everywhere and a sad story of missed child support, garnished disability checks, and a repossessed motorcycle.
Next up: a beautiful blonde seventy-year old woman wearing an Australian slouch hat and her fortyish son wearing a Padres baseball cap. In the 1950s, beautiful blonde’s father bought a cottage (with large lots on either side) down the beach, conveniently died in the early 2000s, and left her all his property. Dutiful son tried hard not to look too gleeful or expectant as beautiful blonde explained that when she died, all the property would go to him.
If Unicorn lets me share his lane, I have a convenient morning swim in the backyard pool.
Baja Fish Tacos
Pickled Red Onion: 1 large red onion, halved lengthways, thinly sliced 2 small green jalapeños 2/3 cup rice vinegar 1 tablespoon lime juice 1 heaped teaspoon sea salt
Baja Cream: 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1/2 cup sour cream 2 teaspoons lime juice, plus extra to taste 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest Pinch of sea salt
Baja Cabbage Slaw: 2 tablespoons mayonnaise 3/4 teaspoon lime juice 2 drops jalapeño Tabasco sauce 1/2 small head green cabbage, thinly sliced Sea salt and ground black pepper
Marinated Fish: 1/4 cup olive oil 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped 1 green jalapeño, chopped 1 lb flaky white fish filets Sea salt and ground black pepper Corn tortillas, for serving
Pickled Red Onion: To make the pickled red onion, place the onion and jalapeño in a heatproof medium bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, lime juice and salt. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring until the salt dissolves, then pour over the onion and jalapeño. Allow to stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before using. (Leftovers will keep up to 1 week in the fridge.)
Baja Cream: To make the Baja cream, whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, lime zest and salt in a small bowl, then taste for seasoning and lime juice.
Baja Cabbage Slaw: To make the cabbage slaw, mix together the mayonnaise, lime juice and Tabasco in a bowl. Toss the cabbage with the mayonnaise mixture, season to taste and refrigerate.
Marinated Fish: To marinate the fish, mix the olive oil, chili powder, oregano, cumin, coriander and jalapeño in a non-reactive dish. Add the fish and marinate for 20 minutes. When ready to cook the fish, heat a non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade, place in the hot pan and season with salt. Cook the fish for 4 minutes, then turn over, season again with salt and cook for another 2 minutes or until just cooked through, depending on the thickness. Remove the pan from the heat and flake the fish with a fork, scraping up and mixing in any marinade that has stuck to the bottom.
Assembly: Heat the tortillas according to the directions on the packet. To assemble the tacos, place a heaped spoon of the fish onto the centre of a warm tortilla. Top with the pickled onion and jalapeño, Baja cream, Baja cabbage slaw and tomato salsa.