South of the border fare features fish, tasty ‘go-withs’

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  • Sunset over Cabo san Lucas glows a ‘happy birthday” to Valle on Princess Cruise ship on March 5.

  • 1

    Fish fajitas are great, savory anytime treat.

  • Sunset over Cabo san Lucas glows a ‘happy birthday” to Valle on Princess Cruise ship on March 5.

  • 1

    Fish fajitas are great, savory anytime treat.

Since I missed Cinco de Mayo — at least in this column — I’ll honor it and our friends across the border in today’s recipes. It’s really an excuse to show the pretty sunset picture I got last March on the cruise ship along the Baja coast — my gift from son Grant to me and other family members for my 89th Birthday. (‘Whatta’Kid’)!

Since I love Mexican fare and fish, I’m combining the two for your dining pleasure. Enjoy!

Fish Fajitas

1/4 cup lime juice

1 Tbs. balsamic or red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp. ground coriander seed

2 tsps. ground cumin

1 pound tilapia, Pollock or halibut steak, about 1/2-inch thick

1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. salad oil or olive oil


4 warmed flour tortillas (10-inch dia.)

Sour cream

Salsa of choice

In a large bowl, mix lime juice, vinegar, garlic, honey, coriander and cumin. Rinse fish fillet, pat dry and cut crosswise into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Stir carefully into marinade and let stand for about 10 minutes*, frequently stirring gently.

Drain fish and discard marinade. Set fish aside. Preheat a 10- or 12-inch shallow frypan over high heat. Add 1 Tbs. of the oil, lower heat to med-high and add bell pepper and onion; cook stirring until pepper is limp and onion is just beginning to brown — about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside in a serving bowl.

Heat remaining 1 Tb. oil, add fish strips and cook, stirring gently until barely translucent in center. Transfer to bowl with prepared vegetables. Salt to taste, tossing lightly.

To serve, divide fish/veggie mix between four prepared tortillas. Top with sour cream and salsa as desired. Roll to enclose and serve garnished with avocado and melon (as per our illustration), accompanied with black and white bean salad or your favorite ‘go-with.”

* Don’t leave in marinade too long, since it works as a “cooking” action.

Fish steaks and/or fillets — especially of white fleshed fish, including mahi or ahi and others, are perfect partners for the spicy tang of Mexican fare. Here’s another, more substantial and very unique main dish; Paella in the oven! This one’s for when you have plenty of time at home and in the kitchen, perfect for a casual dinner party. It’s a vegetarian recipe, so you can choose your accompanying fish (or shrimp, chicken, etc.).

Vegetable Paella

3 cups short grain white rice, uncooked

6 cups veggie stock or water

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 cups peas

1 large red onion, diced

3 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup green pitted olives, drained

1 3/5-oz. jar capers, with liquid

1/2 cup pimientos or jarred red bell pepper, diced

2 8-oz., pkgs. Tempeh, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/4 cup dried tarragon

1 Tbs. black pepper

3/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 250F. Place rice in bottom of a large casserole dish and pour stock over it. Toss remaining ingredients with olive oil, season with the tarragon and black pepper, and spoon into casserole. Cover, place in oven and cook for 1 hour. Uncover and stir gently from top, checking the rice with a long handled spoon for doneness. Re-cover, return to oven and cook another 30 minutes; check for doneness; add more stock/water if necessary. Cook another 30 minutes or as necessary until rice is done and carrots are tender. Quickly pan-fry fish of choice, place on a platter; sprinkle parsley atop the paella and place casserole on a trivet for self-serve.

Note: I’ve attend just two paella parties in my life; one in Guadalajara at a restaurant where everything was all mixed up together, and another at a private dinner at the home of a Mexican couple in the states, where the rice was cooked separately and the shrimp and veggies were self-served atop it.

Here’s a final “quickie” for the working mother/business-woman: Regardless of the name, it is not a dessert! Long-time pal Ginger Curtis gave me this recipe many years ago. (She’s still going strong at 85!)

Quick Mexi-Corn Pudding

1 can whole kernel corn w/juice, such as Niblets

1 can cream-style corn

1 cube (cup) softened butter

1 cup sour cream

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 4-oz. can diced green chilies, drained

1 small jar pimientos, drained

1 box Jiffy corn bread mix

Mix all ingredients together, pour into a lightly buttered baking dish and bake at 350F. 50 minutes.

Now, it’s “hasta la vista” with a traditional dessert; heavenly flan!

Caramel/Vanilla Flan

1 ¼ cups sugar

1/3 cup water

2 cups half and half

1 cup whipping cream

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

3 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Set out 8 ¾-cup custard cups.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir sugar and water together until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to med-high and boil without stirring until syrup turns deep brown (watch carefully!). Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe down sides of pan, and swirl the pan occasionally. Pour caramel evenly into the 8 custard cups and set aside.

Bring half and half, cream and sweetened condensed milk to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk eggs and yolks in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot cream mixture into yolk mixture; whisk in extract. When blended, ladle custard into caramel-lined cups. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards no longer move in center when cups are gently shaken, about 40 minutes. Remove from water and cool ½-hour. Cover and chill overnight. At serving time, run small sharp knife around custards to loosen if necessary. Turn out onto plates and serve as is or with a dollop of whipped cream.

Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at or by phone at 208-265-4688.

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