Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 26, 2021

© Chris Middleton

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Roasted salmon tacos Baja–Med style

Modern Mexican recipes ideal for warm-weather eating

Baja-med is a delicious fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean cookery found in the border town of Tijuana and elsewhere in Mexico’s Baja California.

12 store-bought tortillas
tamarind chili mole (optional, recipe follows)

For the salmon
1 x 14 oz. (400 g) pin-boned Atlantic salmon fillet, skin on
olive oil, for frying
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 large salad onion, sliced
½ small dried chipotle chili, finely sliced
1 yellow bullhorn chili, sliced into rounds
7 oz. (200 g) mixed red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
2¾ oz. (75 g) kalamata olives, halved
5 tbsp. (75 ml) sherry vinegar
juice of 1 orange
5 tbsp. (75 ml) agave syrup
1 bunch basil leaves, shredded

For the cucumber salsa
2 peeled Lebanese (short) cucumbers, finely diced
½ bunch dill
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) caraway seeds, toasted
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) sugar
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) salt
juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp. (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

To prepare the salmon, using a sharp knife, cut the salmon fillet along the seam of flesh that separates the belly from the loin. Cut into two pieces, separating the belly from the loin.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt, then place them in the hot pan, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes, pressing the pieces down with your hands to ensure they cook flat. Cook for a further 1 minute, then transfer to the oven, skin side down, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack, then cut into 2.5-cm (1-in) thick slices using a sharp knife.

Add another splash of olive oil to the pan together with the garlic, onion, chipotle, bullhorn chili, tomatoes and olives, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the vinegar and orange juice, bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, then add the agave syrup and simmer until reduced to a thick, sticky coating. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small bowl, add the basil leaves and season to taste. Set aside to cool.

Heat a medium non-stick pan over high heat. Lightly spray with oil and briefly fry the tortillas to warm them. Stack the tortillas, wrap in a warm damp tea towel and set aside to keep warm.

To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. To serve, divide the tortillas among serving plates. Spoon over a little tamarind chili mole, if using, and top with the salmon slices, vegetable mix and a pile of the salsa. Serve immediately with more tamarind chili mole on the side for dipping. Serves 6.

Tamarind chili mole

This barbecue salsa gives a great flavour boost to slow-cooked meats, while a little stirred through mayonnaise or sour cream will help lift and enliven anything from tacos to fried seafood.

⅔ c. (160 ml) merlot vinegar
3½ oz. (100 g) tamarind pulp
1⅔ c. (400 ml) orange juice, plus zest of 1 orange
1¼ c. (300 ml) agave syrup, plus extra to taste
4 jalapeños
2 red habanero chilies, halved and de-seeded
8 garlic cloves
6 ripe organic tomatoes
3 tbsp. (45 ml) olive oil
6 tbsp. (100 ml) boiling water
juice of 1 lime
pinch of ground cumin
sea salt to taste

Preheat an overhead grill (broiler) to high heat.

Combine the vinegar and tamarind in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Add the orange juice and zest, return to the boil, and simmer gently for 10 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add the agave, return to the boil and reduce down further until the mixture is glossy.

Meanwhile, place the chilies, garlic and tomatoes on a grill tray, and grill (broil) for 20 minutes until softened and caramelized. Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse briefly, gradually adding the olive oil and boiling water as you go, to make a smooth sauce.

Season with the lime juice, cumin and salt to taste, and store in sterilized jars for up to 1 month. Makes 2 cups (500 ml).

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