Eric Akis: Tasty tostadas, with a B.C. twist

Eric Akis

Early this year — which seems like a lifetime ago, given what’s happened with the COVID-19 pandemic — my wife and I had a lovely little getaway in San Diego. While there, we dined at several Mexican restaurants and noticed that tostadas were featured on many menus.

Tostada is a Spanish word that means toasted — in this case, a tortilla that is toasted and used as a base.

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The tostadas we saw were topped in all sorts of ways, with crisp lettuce, beans, salsa, cheese and a main ingredient, including seafood, chicken and carnitas — shredded succulent pieces of pork.

The other day, I was thinking about those tostadas and thought it would fun to make a B.C.-style version.

Rather than use tortillas as the base, I used fry bread, a First Nations-style bread also called bannock. Recipes for fry bread can vary, but many see a baking powder-leavened, flour-based dough formed into rounds and fried in a skillet until golden and puffed. In other words, the perfect base for a tostada.

In my recipe, I topped the fry bread with some of the items noted above and, for the main ingredient, used strips of nicely seasoned roasted B.C. fish. The latter could be cut from snapper (also called rockfish), lingcod, salmon or halibut fillets, depending on your preference.

When the tostadas are plated and ready to enjoy, you end up with a bright, colourful, very flavourful dish that will go great with beer or margaritas.

B.C. Fish and Fry Bread Tostadas

This B.C.-style version of tostadas uses homemade fry bread as the base. Once plated, that fry bread is topped with nicely spiced pieces of B.C. fish, salsa, lettuce and sour cream. The recipes for the tostadas, fry bread and salsa could be halved if you’re only serving two.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus time to make salsa and fry bread
Cooking time: about 12 minutes
Makes: four servings

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 Tbsp lime juice

2 tsp brown sugar or honey

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

• pinch ground cayenne pepper

450 grams B.C. snapper, lingcod, salmon or halibut fillets (see Note)

• salt to taste

4 fry bread (see recipe below)

• shredded lettuce, to taste

• tomato salsa, to taste (see recipe below and Eric’s options)

1 ripe avocado, cut into small cubes

• dollops of sour cream, to taste (see Eric’s options)

• lime wedges and cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Combine the oil, lime juice, brown sugar (or honey), chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Cut the fish into two-inch-long, half-inch-thick strips, set in the bowl and toss to coat.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange fish in a single layer on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet; season with salt. Roast fish eight to nine minutes, or until just cooked through.

Remove fish from the oven, then pop fry bread into the oven to warm for a few minutes.

To serve, set a piece of fry bread on each of four plates. Divide and top fry bread with lettuce, fish, salsa, avocado and sour cream. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro sprigs, if using, and serve.

Note: If using salmon or halibut fillets, remove and discard the skin before slicing the fish.

Eric’s options: If you don’t want to make your own salsa, replace it with store-bought fresh or bottled tomato salsa. For added richness, you could also top the tostadas with crumbled goat cheese or queso fresco, to taste. If you don’t eat dairy, you could replace the sour cream with yogurt-like plain, cultured coconut milk.

Fry Bread

First Nations-style bread leavened with baking powder that you form into thin rounds and fry in a skillet until puffed and golden. Fry bread makes a great base for tostadas and could also be filled and folded as you would a soft tortilla.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus resting time
Cooking time: about eight minutes
Makes: four fry bread

2 cups all-purpose flour (see Note)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus some for frying

3/4 cup water

Place flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the flour and pour the 1 Tbsp oil and water into it. Use a spatula to mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until dough forms that’s just starting to hold together.

Transfer dough, and any unincorporated flour in the bowl, to a work surface. Knead the dough into a smooth ball. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

When dough has rested, shape it into an eight-inch-long log. Cut the log, widthwise, into four roughly equally pieces. Press each piece into a thin round that’s about six inches wide. (If the dough feels overly sticky when you do this, lightly flour your fingers and the work surface under the dough.)

Heat one inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet set over medium to medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry one round of dough 45 to 60 seconds. Carefully turn over and fry the bread 45 to 60 seconds on the other side, or until puffed, golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towel and then set on a baking sheet. Cook the remaining fry bread. Use fry bread as described in the tostadas recipe.

Note: If your flour has been sitting around for a while, give it a good stir before measuring what you need. Doing that will aerate the flour and make it more like it was when first purchased.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Fresh and bright salsa you can spoon on top of tostadas and serve with other Mexican-style dishes.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: None
Makes: About two cups

2 medium ripe, red, on-the-vine tomatoes, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup finely chopped onion or shallot

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped

1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, flesh finely chopped (see Eric options)

2 Tbsp lime juice

1/4 tsp ground cumin

• salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Any salsa left over from using it on the tostadas will keep a few days in the refrigerator.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have a jalapeño, replace it with some hot pepper sauce, to taste, such as Tabasco.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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