Mahi with "Floribbean" Salsa and Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

I love a great music mashup.  A quick Google search will have you humming along to not just one, but two of your favorite tunes…at the same time.  The Beatles meet Bob Marley.  Queen meets Outkast.  If you’re unsure as to what the heck I’m talking about, check out this one of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy by clicking here.

As in music, sometimes flavors can come together to create a "foodie mashup" that will surprise your palate and make you wonder: Why didn’t I think of this before?

This particular one happened in a technically unimpressive way, simply by the two dishes being mixed together on the same plate.   It happened the night we studied “Floribbean” foods in culinary school, and on the menu were black bean-jicama salad and tropical salsa.  When it came time to taste our finished products, we loaded up our plates with the brightly-flavored dishes typical of the Sunshine State and the Caribbean.  A little mixing and mingling of foods on the plate led to the unexpected discovery of something fabulous. 

This Floribbean salsa “mashup” features bright flavors of mango and pineapple, and the refreshing crunch of red bell pepper and jicama.  Jicama is a tuberous root also known as a Mexican turnip.  Its flavor is hard to pinpoint, but it has the texture of a crisp apple and the starchy, organic taste of a raw green bean.  Paired with lime juice, cilantro, and other fruits, it really blends well and adds an unmistakable crunch to the salsa.  You should be able to find it in the produce section of most larger grocery stores. 

My hubby and I have been whipping up this dinner for years now, and it’s usually my go-to recipe for entertaining, so long as my guests like fish.   I've paired it with a cilantro-lime quinoa here, but you could serve it over coconut rice, red beans and rice, or even a mixed green salad.  It’s also gluten free, dairy free, and incredibly healthy. 

Quinoa (pronouned KEEN-wah)

I personally favor the delicate flavor and flaky texture of mahi (also known as dolphinfish or dorado), but you could certainly use another variety of fish like grouper, wahoo (ono), or snapper.  Your selection will be highly dependent on where you live and the availability of fresh fish. Fresh is always better, but frozen is a good option if you have no other options.  Oh, how I miss Florida…

Pair this dish with a glass of Pinot Blanc and some Bob Marley tunes to create a fun dinnertime “mashup” you’ll keep coming back to again and again.

A Word on Frozen Fish:

Did you know that a lot of the “fresh” fish on display in the seafood section of grocery stores are actually previously frozen?  Read the labels carefully, or when in doubt, just ask.  Many times you can get a better deal and better quality product in the frozen section. 

The key to using frozen fish is thawing it properly.  The best way to thaw it is under refrigeration, at least overnight.  However, this requires a little prior planning, which, let’s be honest, doesn't always happen.  If you’re in a pinch, put the frozen fish in a tightly-sealed, re-closable plastic bag, with most of the air pushed out to create a makeshift vacuum seal.  Set the bag of fish in a bowl, and run cold water over it until the fish is covered with water.  Let the faucet slowly drip on the bowl for 1-2 hours, or until the fish is thawed all the way through. 

Mahi with Floribbean Salsa and Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Yields:  6 servings

Ingredients:

6 Mahi fillets, around 6 oz each

2 cups uncooked quinoa

1 ear of fresh sweet corn, husk on

1 can black beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced

1/2 of a fresh pineapple, trimmed and finely diced

1 small jicama, peeled and finely diced

1 mango, peeled and finely diced

Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

3 fresh limes (do not use artificial juice!)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt & pepper

 

Method:

Floribbean Salsa

  1. Cook the ear of sweet corn (with the husk still intact) in the microwave for 2 minutes.  The corn will steam inside the husk, just enough to bring out the flavor.  Pop it in the freezer to cool while you prepare the rest of the salsa ingredients. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the rinsed black beans, red bell pepper, red onion, pineapple, jicama, and mango.
  3. Take the corn out of the freezer and cut the kernels off the cob with a serrated knife.  Add to bowl. 
  4. Add half of the chopped cilantro, about 1 tsp. salt, juice from 2 of the limes, and 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. 
  5. Mix together just enough to incorporate all ingredients. Set aside.

 

Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

  1. In a saucepan, combine 2 cups uncooked quinoa with 3 ¾ cups water. 
  2. Bring to boil, then cover with lid and turn down the heat. 
  3. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. 
  4. Turn off heat but keep the lid on.
  5. Before serving, fluff with a fork and add ½ of the chopped cilantro and juice of 1 lime.

Mahi

  1. Season top side of mahi fillets with a pinch of salt and pepper for each. 
  2. Spray tops of each fillet with a nonstick cooking spray like Pam
  3. Turn your oven to 350 F. 
  4. Pre-heat sauté pan over medium high heat on stove top burner, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add enough canola oil to coat bottom of pan.  When the oil appears to thin out, the pan is hot and ready.
  6. Place the mahi, seasoned side down, in the pan.  It should SIZZLE.  If it doesn’t, the pan wasn’t hot enough.  Do not try to move the fish around yet.  Let it sear for about 1-2 minutes. 
  7. Using a spatula (not tongs), carefully turn each fillet over and let them sear another minute or so.
  8. Transfer the sauté pan to the oven.  NOTE:  If your sauté pan has a plastic handle, DO NOT put it in the oven.  It could melt.  Instead, transfer the fish to a baking dish before putting it in the oven.
  9. Bake the fish in the oven for about 5-7 minutes, or until the center is opaque all the way through (about 140 degrees F on a cooking thermometer). The cooking time will vary depending on how hot your oven runs and the thickness of the fillet.
  10. Serve the fish on top of the cilantro-lime quinoa and top with plenty of the Floribbean salsa. Enjoy!
Tips:
  • Use a vegetable peeler to peel the mango and jicama.  For dicing tips, click here.
  • The pit of a mango is quite large and oval-shaped.  It can be tricky to slice off discs to work with, so just start on the widest side, and slice as many as you can until you hit the pit.  Rotate to the next side and repeat.  Continue until all four sides have been cut down to the pit, then slice and dice each disc stack.
  • You can add other seasonings to the fish like paprika, cumin, garlic, or chili powder.  Just be careful not to overdo it....fish can't stand up to heavy amounts of seasoning the way beef can, so don't over-salt! 
  • Canola oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil making it a better choice for high-heat applications like searing fish.  
  • Be sure to heat the pan first, then add the oil right before the fish to avoid the oil from smoking or getting too hot. 
  • After removing the sauté pan from the oven, slip an oven mitt onto the handle to remind yourself not to grab the blazing-hot handle after doing other tasks.