Fish Tacos from San Diego

Robin and Maria’s beautiful backyard was the perfect setting for our San Diego family dinner

Tradition holds that when we visit Robin and Maria, our uncle and aunt on Alex’s side, we are treated to their fish taco special.  On my most recent visit to San Diego, Robin and Maria invited over my sister, her husband, his brother, and my training partner and her boyfriend.  We had quite the crew! We were lucky to have perfect San Diego February weather, and dined al fresco under the stars, palm trees and strings of lights, with a fire going to keep us warm.  Because I miss my San Diego family, I decided to recreate Maria’s recipe for Alex and me to enjoy in Chicago, and to share with all of you.

The staples of this recipe are the fish, rice and beans, but you can add any of your favorite vegetables as a side.  Alex and I enjoyed our tacos with roasted asparagus, and cucumber and tomato salad or a colorful cauliflower medley would pair with these tacos well.


Fish tacos with rice and beans– serves 6

I like to use tilapia with this recipe because it is a light fish that takes on the full flavor of a marinade. Any white fish will do – the flakier the better! Dried beans work best with this recipe, if you have the time to prepare them. Maria cooks her beans all day in a slow cooker, at low heat. When I attempted to use the slow cooker, I plugged it into a faulty outlet, effectively just soaking my beans all day. I found out that soaking the beans works well too! So if you do not have a slow cooker, soak your beans all day in just enough water to cover their surface. Drain that water and bring beans to a boil in fresh water, covering beans with about an inch of water above their surface. When your beans reach a boil, simmer on low heat for at least an hour. Alternatively, this recipe will be just fine with canned beans, but using dried beans has many benefits, as outlined in an article from “the kitchn” (sic) called “How to Cook Beans on the Stove” that I saved for you below.  If you cook beans on the stove, you can reserve your nutritious bean water for later use.

Special note: this recipe has two steps, which are worth starting the night before or morning of your fish taco dinner. If you are short on time, you can use canned beans and shorten your marinating time, but plan to allow fish to marinate for at least one hour.

You will need:


  1. 1 ½ pounds white fish like tilapia
  2. 1-2 C Italian dressing
  3. 16 oz bag dried pinto beans
  4. ½ yellow onion
  5. 1 ½ C brown rice (or about ¼ C dry brown rice per person)
  6. 3 T salsa
  7. 1/2 T olive oil
  8. 12 small corn tortillas

Serve with sliced cabbage, Greek yogurt, salsa, and avocado slices or guacamole


  1. Transfer fish to a large Tupperware container to marinade.  Cover fish in a layer of Italian dressing, sloshing gently to coat.  Refrigerate and marinate your fish overnight/all day, or for as long as you can.
  2. Combine beans with water to soak overnight/all day.
  3. When you are ready to prepare your fish taco meal, start by draining the beans that have been soaking.  Cover beans in fresh water, with about an inch of water above the bean surface.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for at least an hour.
  4. Next, combine water and rice in a 2-1 ratio.  Add salsa before bringing rice to a boil.  Simmer for at least twenty simmer, or as directed on rice package.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare your taco toppings.  Chop cabbage and slice avocado and set aside.
  6. When your rice has about 10 minutes left to cook, heat a large pan on medium heat.  Add olive oil.  When oil begins to shimmer or smoke faintly, add fish filets in a single layer, without overlapping.  Let your fish cook for 4 to 5 minutes without nudging the filets at all.  You should start to see the edges of the filets become less translucent as the fish cooks.  Flip fish, and finish on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes (longer for thick filets).
  7. When your rice has absorbed all of the water, remove from heat, fluff and cover again for about 5 minutes.  Doing so will give your rice a chance to steam and will help you avoid sticky clumps of rice.
  8. Serve fish with two small corn tortillas per taco.  Top with Greek yogurt, salsa, cabbage and guacamole or fresh avocado slices.


Source: Christensen, Emma. “How To Cook Beans on the Stove – Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn.” The Kitchn. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.


White Fish Poached in Coconut Milk with Mango

Jake at El Pescador helped us choose halibut.

When Alex visited San Diego, we went out to a Mexican restaurant in Ocean Beach for dinner and agreed that our meal was the very best Mexican food we had ever tasted.  Visit Ranchos Cocina if you are ever in OB!  The Acapulco fish special inspired me to create this recipe, which I prepared over and over again with many types of white fish.

Our favorite versions of this dish were made with frozen, local mahi-mahi and fresh halibut.  My sister, Liz, and I ventured to El Pescador in nearby La Jolla to buy the local, line-caught halibut at the fish market.  I cooked the halibut for Liz and her husband, Jay, while their new puppy, Gracie, stood watch for crumbs.


White Fish Poached in Coconut Milk with Mango – serves 3 to 4

When preparing your mango, be sure to remove all of the skin from the chunks.  The skin tastes bitter, and can sometimes irritate your skin.  I prefer using full-fat coconut milk for this dish.  The fat will separate from liquids in the can, and you can decide how much fat to include.  I usually use about half a cup of the fat and dispose of the rest.  You will get a creamier sauce and fuller flavor if you use full-fat rather than lite coconut milk.  I have tried this recipe with bass, cod, mahi-mahi and halibut.  Cod soaks up the coconut milk flavors the most, and cooks more quickly than other white fish because it is so thin.

You will need: IMG_1792.jpg

  1. 2 broccoli crowns, chopped
  2. 1 ripe mango, chopped into chunks
  3. 1 C quinoa
  4. 32 oz vegetable broth
  5. 14.5 oz C coconut milk
  6. 1-1.5 lb white fish
  7. 1 t garlic powder
  8. 1 t black pepper



  1. Wash and chop broccoli.  Chop mango into chunks, being careful to remove the skin from all pieces.  Set broccoli and mango aside, separately.
  2. Rinse quinoa and combine with 1 C veggie broth and 1 C water in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  When quinoa reaches a boil, turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.
  3. Steam broccoli in a separate pot.
  4. Meanwhile, combine canned coconut milk and about 1.5 C vegetable broth in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Stir until coconut milk fat has melted, and then add mango chunks.  Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer.  Drop in your fish filets and cook for about 5 minutes, adding 1-2 minutes if your filets are thick.
  5. At this point, your quinoa should be about ready.  Stir to check whether the liquids have been completely absorbed.  If they have, remove from heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  6. Check that the broccoli has reached desired tenderness, and season with garlic powder and black pepper.
  7. Fluff quinoa with a fork before serving.  Serve fish over 1 C cooked quinoa, spooning sauce and mango chunks across the fish.  Enjoy with a side of broccoli.