Summer Days: Grilled Halibut Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa

Halibut tacos.TheCubanReuben.comFor many of us, Labor Day weekend marks the end of the summer months. I’m happy to report that Kenny and I made the absolute best of summer this year. For us, summer really began in May, when Kenny graduated from business school after three long years of working during the day and studying at night.

I definitely earned this post-graduation moment right here.

We started by visiting Kenny’s parents in his hometown of Columbus, OH, where we ate our weight in Graeter’s ice cream, and experienced a true Midwestern fourth of July celebration. From there, we ventured to Indianapolis, IN to welcome our family’s newest addition to the tribe, baby Esther Rose Stempel. Kenny and I soaked up the time with our nephews and niece as best we could, because we don’t get to see them very often.

Uncle Ken shows Eli how to make the trains run. There may be another engineer in the family, soon!
Uncle Ken shows Eli how to make the trains run. There may be another engineer in the family, soon!

We enjoyed pizza parties, pasta-making parties, bachelor parties, and more parties than I think our geriatric selves have experienced in our lifetime. A particular highlight was “Pizza and Path” at the Saly Cortile Cucina, hosted by Matt and Dana Saly. They invited a fabulous group of their friends to enjoy a night of fresh pizza and fine tunes by an old favorite of mine, Joshua Path (aka, Josh Bloomberg). We shared memories of old camp days and even sang some of the songs we remembered, while Josh introduced me to some of his newer melodies.

Dena Zelig and I huddle up with our fave rocker, Joshua Path. He's even better than I remembered!
Dena Zelig and I huddle up with our fave rocker, Joshua Path. He’s even better than I remembered!

And what’s a summer with Kenny Stempel without a little fishing? In early August, Kenny and I joined our extended family for a memorable fishing trip in Mammoth Lakes, CA. We hit up June Lake and Convict Lake, and had a wonderful time relaxing on the pontoon while we caught some trout.

He doesn't get more relaxed than this!
He doesn’t get more relaxed than this!

One of Summer’s greatest highlights for Kenny was the fishing trip he took with my dad to Alaska. Similarly to the trip that Kenny and my dad took a couple years ago, this year’s trip produced a freezer full of fish I barely know what to do with. This time around, in addition to the loads of salmon, Kenny gifted me with another prized catch, as well: fresh Alaskan halibut. Despite my disdain for all things fishy fish, this is actually good news, as halibut really does have a relatively mild flavor, which of course, makes it easier for me to enjoy my intake of omega-3’s.

Halibut tacos
The colorful display of tacos.

The moment Kenny walked through the door with loads of this freshly caught fish, I went to work dreaming up a recipe that aims to please. I created a citrus-heavy marinade for the fish that is balanced perfectly with the sweet and savory mango avocado salsa that decorates the top of the taco, and makes for one ridiculous bite-ful of goodness.   I can’t think of a better way to keep the summer going than by whipping up this recipe that, simply put, tasted like summer. No matter the time of year, one bite from these babies, and you’ll be right back smack in the middle of your own favorite summer memory, too.


Grilled Halibut Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 3-4
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
The savory flavors of this grilled fish pair perfectly with the sweet fruit salsa.
For the fish
  • 12 oz Alaskan Halibut fillets
  • 2 tsp lime zest
  • 1 whole lime, juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ⅛ tsp paprika
  • ⅛ tsp chili powder
  • ⅛ tsp cumin
  • pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
For the salsa
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped minced red onion
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tacos
  • 6 taco-sized tortillas (I used whole wheat)
  • Lime wedges
  1. In a plastic bag, add fish, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Tightly seal bag, and massage the fish until all ingredients are combined. Store in the refrigerator, and marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, gently fold together mango, avocado, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, tomatoes, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper, and set aside.
  3. Heat an indoor grill pan to medium high heat, and drizzle with olive oil. Cook halibut 3-5 minutes per side, or until flaky.
  4. Warm tortillas according to package instructions.
  5. Fill each tortilla with flakes of fish, top with salsa, garnish with lime wedges, and serve immediately.


Gone Fishin’: Pan-fried Perch

Pan-fried Perch.TheCubanReuben.comWhether it is in a little lake, or deep in the sea, there’s just something about fishing that has appealed to my husband, ever since his childhood fishing trips alongside his grandpa. When Kenny met Joe, my brother’s father-in-law, several years back, they quickly discovered common ground in their shared favorite pastime. Every time they find themselves together at family functions, the topic of a fishing trip always comes up (usually by Kenny asking Joe when they’re going fishing). With Kenny’s nights and weekends tied up with business school for the past 3 years, it was hard for him to get away, but sure enough, the weekend right after his graduation, he and Joe planned their expedition.

Kenny woke up bright and early in the morning to meet Joe and his son, Manny, and they headed on their way. Joe had picked out the perfect spot along the coast for this “boys only” fishing trip, and soon they were one with the sea.

Kenny and the sea.
Kenny and the sea. (Photo by Manny Campa)

A few hours later, Kenny returned sunburned and satiated, with a cooler full of fish he expected me to prepare. Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I am somewhat of a rookie when it comes to preparing fish, but particularly when the fish does not come filleted. I quickly searched YouTube for some help with how to prepare this bucket of perch awaiting me, and found this very helpful video.

Soon, I was off to a great start on dinner. Joe had suggested pan-frying the perch, and naturally, I looked for fresh and light sides to accompany the catch of the day. I landed on a nice summer salad of crisp cucumbers and juicy ripe tomatoes, and rounded out the meal with a lemon-scented orzo pasta that would complement the lemon I squeezed atop my piece of fish.

Joe and the fish.
Joe with the catch of the day. (Photo by Kenny Stempel)

For as down as I am on fish, I have to say that this was quite tasty. Maybe it’s because the fish was as fresh as it was, or because just about anything tastes good breaded and fried, but this was by far my best tasting fish dish to date. The flavor of the fish was very mild, and the seasonings I used in the coating really helped to enhance the dish. With this new recipe in my repertoire, Kenny and Joe just might be going fishing a bit more often.

Pan-fried Perch
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 2-3
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A quick and easy way to prepare the catch of the day!
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup half and half
  • 1½ lbs fresh perch, skinned (filleting optional)
  • ½ lbs butter
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges
  1. In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt, Old Bay seasoning, paprika and black pepper. In a separate dish, beat the egg and the half and half together, and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt butter in pan over medium heat.
  3. Dredge the perch in the flour mixture, dip in the egg mixture, and return to the flour mixture before carefully placing in the pan with the melted butter. Brown on each side for about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from pan, and drain on paper towel.
  5. Serve immediately, and garnish with lemon wedges.
I found this link very helpful to learn how to skin and fillet fresh perch:


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