Monday, July 23, 2012


There is a notable difference in the taste and texture of fresh wild-caught salmon versus frozen and thawed.  I buy salmon all year long, so I'm not against frozen and thawed, so long as it's US (preferably Alaskan) fish. I never buy farm-raised salmon.  Besides the higher PCB count, it's also been fed antibiotics.  And, anyway, it doesn't taste anything like wild-caught salmon.  Wild-caught salmon is delicate but full of flavor.  (True disclosure:  Wild-caught salmon is started in a controlled environment, then released to the "wild" at puberty so it can be "caught."  While it is not as nutritious as 100% wild salmon, it's affordable for the masses and better than 100% farm-raised salmon.)  

I buy wild-caught salmon at Harris Teeter.  Fresh Alaskan salmon is only available for a select number of months a year, roughly May to September.  After that, it's frozen, but still very good.  There are many ways to cook salmon, but I usually look for something easy and quick and preferably for the grill.  The flavors of lemon, dill and garlic marry perfectly with the mild, flavorful salmon.  Any leftovers make a great sandwich the next day, or can be chopped up on a tossed salad.

Grilled Lemon-Dill Wild-Caught Salmon
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  For each 4-6 oz. serving piece of salmon, use the following:
1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 clove garlic, grated finely
1-1/2 tsp. finely chopped dill weed + sprig of dill weed for garnish
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt or Diamond kosher salt
2 big pinches of white pepper
lemon wedge

In plastic resealable bag, combine juice, zest, oil, garlic and dill weed.   Salt and pepper both sides of salmon, then add to marinade bag.  Refrigerate 15 minutes, or up to 30 minutes.  Any longer and the citrus will start to cook the fish.

In the meantime, start the grill and get it to hot, about 400-425F.  Oil the grates with a paper towel folded over and dipped in vegetable oil.  Hold the paper towel with long tongs and rub over the grates to season them.  (There may be a flareup, so be careful.)

Place the fish on the oiled grates.  Close lid.  Cook 2-3 minutes per side, depending on thickness of fish and desired degree of doneness.  I like my salmon rare.  If you like yours medium or well done, leave on grill 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer salmon to a plate, so it can rest for 5-10 minutes and finish cooking, just like a piece of meat.  The microwave oven (turned off, of course) is a great place for that.  Serve garnished with a dill sprig and a wedge of lemon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


If you haven't tried El Taco Loco yet, don't wait any longer.  This is real Mexican food, not part of any chain.
Mostly everything is made in house, and Carmen (the owner), who hails from California, knows how to cook.  The food is ridiculously cheap and amazingly delicious.

Forget atmosphere.  This is basic dining like McDonald's, but with better food.  Place your order at the counter (or call in for takeout).

The menu is on the wall just like at other fast-food eateries.  But that's where comparisons end.

Lunchtime during the week might be busy because all the Mexican workers eat at El Taco Loco.  What does that tell you?  (The recession has shortened the lines though.)

Soft, thin, tender corn tortillas are used for tacos.  You can have them with steak, pork, chorizo, chicken or tongue.  The "Taco Loco" has beef, pork, bacon, Chorizo and Ham.  And there's also taco salad.

On Saturdays and Sundays, you can get chicken or pork tamales.  (Also available on Saturdays and Sundays:  Tripe Soup, Shrimp Soup and Shrimp Cocktail.)

If you've never eaten sopes, give them a try.  With a cornmeal base, I call them "Mexican pizzas."

If you order a sub or a burrito, better have someone to split it with because they're way huge for one person.  Consider El Taco Loco for your next party.  A friend recently celebrated his 80th birthday, and Carmen catered a fabulous feast for the small group of friends who gathered in his honor at his home.

El Taco Loco has my highest recommendation.  The restaurant is clean as a whistle, the food is wonderful, and the prices are extremely reasonable.

EL TACO LOCO, 2408 MLK Blvd, New Bern (252 633-3326
HOURS:  Sunday, 10AM - 5PM; Monday - Thursday, 10AM - 8PM; 
Friday & Saturday, 10AM-10PM