This recipe features my own DIY take on taco spice, used here to season a side of salmon — although it can also go on pork, shrimp, beef or tofu. My wife and family members seriously love my guacamole and pico de gallo, and one day, I was trying to find a light and simple protein to go with them and found myself with a side of salmon and a load of tortillas in the fridge.
Technique tip: I always use fresh lemons and squeeze them just before using in this recipe. Frozen lemon juice or juice from concentrate won't be the same, I guarantee. If your lemons seem under-ripe and hard, try microwaving them for 10-20 seconds, then roll them under your palm to release the juice from the fibers inside before cutting them open.
Swap option: This recipe calls for salmon, but the spice can go on pork, shrimp, beef or tofu!
Preheat the oven to 275 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
For the homemade taco seasoning:
In a small bowl, combine the cumin, ground chili powder, oregano, garlic salt, onion powder, paprika, cayenne and black pepper. Pour the mixture into a medium sauté pan and toast over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the spices become super-fragrant and turn a little darker in color, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour the hot spice mix onto a plate and let it cool off.
For the salmon:1.
Place the side of salmon skin-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Make sure there are no stray pin bones by feeling up and down the flesh with your fingertips; remove any bones you find with tweezers. Tuck the skinny tail end under to even out the width and thickness and to ensure even baking.2.
In a small bowl, mix the mayo and lime juice together. Using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the mayo over the salmon, covering all the pink flesh. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the taco seasoning over the mayo-coated salmon, coating it as evenly as you can. (Store any remaining taco seasoning in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a year.)3.
Bake the salmon for about 40 minutes. You can sneak a peek at the thickest part of the salmon with a paring knife: the flesh should be light-medium pink and moist when the salmon is ready. Do not continue cooking the fish until it flakes; it will be dry by then. Finish the salmon with a squeeze of lime juice.
For the pico de gallo and guacamole:1.
Set up two medium bowls side by side. Put the red onion in each bowl, along with the minced jalapeño, lemon juice, salt and garlic salt. Mix each bowl to combine the ingredients and let them sit for at least 5 minutes while you chop the tomatoes (you should have about 3 cups) and pit and peel the avocados (save one of the pits for storing the guacamole).2.
For the pico de gallo: Add the chopped tomatoes to the onion mixture and toss to combine. Add the cilantro last, folding it gently to avoid mashing and bruising it up.3.
For the guacamole: Add the avocados to the onion mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mash and chop up the avocados as you mix. Don't overmix or mash them too much; this guacamole is meant to be chunky and thick enough to break a chip. Add the cilantro to the guacamole and gently fold it in.
Toast the tortillas by holding them with metal tongs and quickly passing them over a stovetop burner (gas or electric both work fine) set to medium-low heat. Toast each side until light brown spots start to appear and the tortillas become soft and pliable, 30-45 seconds per side.
Serve the salmon with the freshly toasted corn tortillas, the pico de gallo and the guacamole.