harissa tacos

grilled harissa shrimp

When I made that big batch of harissa a couple of weeks ago, I gave some of it away but kept a small jar for myself, even though I wasn’t sure what I would do with it. We had already planned to make grilled shrimp tacos that week (back when we were still having an unseasonable spell of beautiful weather and could reasonably eat outside), and Jon had the brilliant idea of bathing them in harissa instead of our usual lemon-garlic butter after taking them off the grill. The primary flavors in the harissa are chile pepper, cumin and caraway, so it works perfectly in a Mexican food context.

shrimp and cactus tacos

We built the tacos on flour tortillas with the grilled spicy shrimp, guacamole, sour cream, and lots of nopalitos (pickled cactus strips). It was delicious and I probably ate too much sour cream.

fish tacos & purple salsa

fish tacos

I’ve always been a big fan of fish tacos, and tend to order them any time I see them as long as they’re not deep-fried (not that I have anything against fried fish, but I prefer it outside of a taco). We recently had some fantastic halibut tacos out at Skagit’s Own Fish Market, grilled with a spicy rub and liberally dressed with tomato salsa and fresh cucumber. Then there was the taco, also halibut I think, at Fred’s Rivertown Alehouse in Snohomish, which was topped with cabbage and tartar sauce and came with some really excellent beans and rice. At this point I really wanted to make some of my own, to keep the streak going. We picked up some nice looking ling cod and a pack of fresh tortillas and thought about topping options.

tomatillopurple tomatillo

This year I’ve been growing tomatillos for the first time. We got a couple of plants from the high school greenhouse of a variety I’d never seen before, just labeled “purple tomatillos.” With the hot weather we’ve finally been having, the plants have started bearing like crazy, and the fruits are, indeed, purple. I only had a few mature tomatillos, but decided to try whipping them up into a green (or purple) salsa to go with our fish tacos.

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a goat cheese kind of day

taco fixings

This week has been crazy busy, but we did make time to get down to opening day of our local farmer’s market. It was a classic Pacific Northwest Memorial Day weekend, which is to say it rained every. single. day.

rainy day market

Fortunately there were plenty of vendors and customers, and the hardy Prozac Mountain Boys managed to keep the music playing without floating away.

farmer's market opening day

We bought leeks, fingerling potatoes, asparagus, hothouse peppers, and butter, which seemed like a pretty good haul for the season (thank goodness for Hedlin Farms’ greenhouses). Then we checked out Gothberg Farms’ stand. A local goat dairy, they’re newcomers to the Mount Vernon market, and we’re really excited to have them here. I expect we’ll be eating a lot of their cheese in the months to come, but for now we limited ourselves to a tub of fresh ricotta and a block of Queso Blanco.

rolling the crepe

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taco crawl: Burlington

Taco Express

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Are you having tacos tonight? If not, don’t worry – we ate some for you.

Last weekend, Jon and I went taco-hopping with the help of three intrepid friends. Piled into our minivan, we confused the hell out of the workers at three different taco trucks along Burlington Boulevard. A clown car full of gringos, weird. Eventually we ran out of known taco truck locations as well as appetite, but I think we did pretty well.

Taco Express

Heading over the Skagit River to Burlington, we kept our eyes peeled. There used to be a carniceria in this area, which sometimes set up a big grill out in its parking lot, but sadly it closed last year. We found no sign of tacos until we had passed the mall, but just after Office Max we saw our first target, Taco Express.

Taco Express

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Mount Vernon taco crawl

Mount Vernon taco crawl

It recently occurred to me that we’ve lived in Mount Vernon for twelve years now and have never done a comparative study of all the taco wagons here in town. With the able assistance of my husband and two taco-loving friends, I set out to do so last Saturday.

(Mount Vernon, by the way, is a particularly good place for taco tastings, as our population is about 25 percent Hispanic. This crawl just covered taco wagons, but if you included groceries, taquerias, family restaurants, carnicerias and ladies-who-make-awesome-tamales, you’d be kept busy for quite some time. Anyway – on to the tacos.)

Mount Vernon taco crawl

Our first stop: Taqueria La Bamba. This truck has been set up on College Way for at least ten years, but since we moved out of the neighborhood we hadn’t visited. Its location is prime, near both the community college and the largely Hispanic Kulshan neighborhood. It boasts a large permanent dining area, several outdoor tables and a highly dangerous looking rope swing.

Mount Vernon taco crawl

We decided to order four types of tacos, getting two of each so we could all taste. We picked lengua (tongue), asada (beef), adobada (pork) and tripas (tripe). We also picked up a couple of bottles of tamarind soda pop, one of the best things to drink with a taco besides beer.

Mount Vernon taco crawl

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quick carnitas


Eating at home for the last week has been based around a really lovely pork roast. It all started Wednesday morning, when I mashed several garlic cloves in a mortar with lots of salt and pepper, then rubbed it all over a pork shoulder and let it all get friendly in the refrigerator for the rest of the day.

Jon stuck the pork in the oven before I got home, and by dinnertime it was just right: almost-pink and juicy, with the garlic just beginning to burn on the sides of the pan. We ate it in slices over some truly addictive buttermilk mashed potatoes (from Judy Rodger’s Zuni cookbook) with shredded Brussels sprouts. That was pretty good. But on Thursday, we were thinking tacos.

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