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.


Game Day Eats: Chunky Avocado Salsa

chunky avocado salsa

My family takes college football very seriously, and when it comes to game day, few things take precedence. While Kenny has been an Ohio State Buckeye fan for as long as he can remember (I know, I know… he didn’t go there. Don’t get me started), I didn’t really become interested until my college years. The only problem was that while I attended college, our football team wasn’t the best.

That’s not really fair to say, because Northwestern always boasts that our football players have the highest SAT scores of any other university, and that we take the term scholar athlete very seriously. So I suppose we are the best at some things. But you know your football team may be struggling if your bragging rights come from their SAT scores.

Nonetheless, my college friends and I enjoyed bundling up, and cheering on our mighty Wildcats, whether they won or lost, but the highlight quickly became brainstorming witty cheers to shout at the opponents. For example, if we played the Hoosiers from Indiana University, and it was a rare occasion when NU was in the lead, we’d get the student section cheering, “Hoosier daddy!?” Or when Drew Brees, quarterback for Purdue, graced our field, we’d chant, “Brees blows!”  Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Puns abound when surrounded by nerdy Northwestern football fans. But my all-time favorite cheer is one that my dear husband would rather I keep to myself.

It was a cool Fall day, and my freshman dorm friends and I piled into a cramped car, so that we could watch our Northwestern Wildcats likely be dominated by the Ohio State Buckeyes. We had driven a long way, but we were excited to be amongst the small group of away-game fans. As we found our seats in the visitors’ section of the horseshoe stadium, it quickly became clear that this game would not be going in our favor, and we’d better focus on coming up with a witty cheer to pass the time. The Ohio fans loudly cheered “O-H” from one end of the stadium, and the other end responded with an “I-O.” These folks knew how to cheer! But while many universities have ferocious mascots, like a wildcat, a tiger, a bear, or some other sort of intimidating animal, The Ohio State’s mascot is a poisonous nut. A nut, people! Given this knowledge, the witty cheer came quite easily to me, and I soon had nearly the entire visitors’ section chanting, “At least we’re not nuts!” So what if a super intoxicated buckeye fan tried to take a swing at me, that cheer was worth it. We may have lost the game, but that cheer was a winner.

This coming weekend, undefeated Ohio State plays my beloved alma mater, Northwestern University. Fortunately, our football team seems to be pretty good this year, but just in case, I know what I’ll be cheering if the scoreboard doesn’t sway in our favor. And in honor of college football season, today’s recipe is inspired by one of the many fantastic dishes made by my Tia Pipa (Aunt Felipa). Put a bowl of this chunky salsa, filled with creamy pieces of cool avocado, in front of your football fans, and I promise their mouths will be too full to spit out any witty cheers.

Chunky Avocado Salsa
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 12
Prep time:
Total time:
Football fans will be cheering for this chunky game day salsa!
  • 1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 small yellow onions, divided
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, divided
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped cilantro, divided
  • 3 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 3 Haas avocados
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 whole jalapeno pepper, 1 cup of cilantro, vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder until all are blended into a slightly chunky sauce. Pour into a large bowl.
  2. Finely dice the second onion, and add to the bowl.
  3. Remove the seeds and ribs of the second jalapeno, finely dice, and add to the bowl.
  4. Stir in the rest of the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When you are ready to serve, dice the avocados, and stir them into the mix.
  6. Your salsa should now be both chunky and wet. Serve and enjoy!
If you prefer a spicier salsa, keep the seeds and ribs in the jalapeno pepper.