monterey bay + mediterranean zucchini tacos





monterey bay aquarium
 Compatibility is being able to walk through an aquarium in sync, each spending the same amount of time reading, each tiring of the octopus display at the same time, each mesmerized by sardines swimming in a circle, their scales glinting in the light, for the same number of moments.

You might laugh, but really, I think being able to tour an aquarium, a museum, or even a farmer’s market at roughly the same pace is a marriage-saver. It’s a gift. Thankfully, we have it. Although I do tend to rush ahead at the farmer’s market.

Last weekend, Brad and I drove 1-1/2 hours down to Monterey to see the aquarium and the ocean. We passed fields and fields of strawberries and fruit stands and were this close to pulling over when we saw a sign heralding 10 Grapefruits for $1. Ten grapefruits! One dollar! Next time…


Interesting things we learned at the aquarium:
// The aquarium used to be a sardine cannery. When the cannery went out of business, they remodeled it, but kept a portion of the canning equipment in the aquarium. In fact, the whole street–now called Cannery Row after Steinbeck’s book of the same name–used to be canneries. When a fishing boat came in with a catch, the canneries would blow their distinct whistle call to rouse their employees and and tell them to come in to process it any time of the day or night. What a horrible, horrible job. But interesting.

// There are seahorses that look exactly like drifting seaweed. We stared at them for a long time, trying to wrap our heads around their branchy, leafy bodies. And then tried to wrap our head around a God who doesn’t have to make beautiful, fascinating, imaginative creatures, but who does because He delights in creativity. He is the origin of creativity.

// Sardines are beautiful–tiny silver-leafed fish. I still won’t eat them.

// White sharks swim from San Francisco to Hawaii every year, and a lot of them stop somewhere in between in the Pacific and stay there for a while. Scientists haven’t figured out why. The cool thing is, Brad’s seen sharks when he’s gone diving in Maui before, so if we see one here in San Francisco, I’m going to say it’s the SAME SHARK. Because it’s possible.

// There’s so much we have no idea about in the ocean. The ocean is like space.

// We like Mission Hill Creamery ice cream, especially their salted caramel flavor. What does this have to do with an aquarium, you ask? Well, in addition to ocean conservation and research projects, Monterey Bay Aquarium works to educate the public about sustainable fishing and offers the helpful Seafood Watch app you probably already have on your phone if you’re a foodie. It helps you compare types of fish and how in danger they are or how likely they are to be over-fished. I love an app that immediately answers my grocery shopping questions like that.

The day we were at the aquarium, they had an event going on with dozens of different local food vendors offering free samples of their wares. These were mostly organic, whole food, small operation makers and farmers. (By the way, I admire the way the aquarium makes people care about ocean conservation by connecting it to the food we eat. I couldn’t care less about environmentalism when it’s presented as a cause more important than human needs, but I’m in full agreement with common sense methods and plans, especially grassroots ones, that result in better food.)

We had California olive oil (fruity), fresh ginger kombucha made by a bearded man named Lev (incredibly refreshing), and salted caramel ice cream from Mission Hill Creamery. Again, this solved a grocery shopping question for me: Should we get Straus ice cream because the quality of their milk is about as high as it can be without being raw (and their Cookies and Cream flavor is TO DIE FOR) or should we try this more local Mission Hill variety, who don’t talk about their cows QUITE as much as the Straus ice cream container does but it looks OK and it’s a dollar cheaper? Well, now we know. Mission Hill uses Straus milk and cream (yay, good cows!) and the ice cream is darn good. Next time we indulge in store-bought, it’ll be them. (Edit: OR NOT. We’re dairy-free as of a week ago. Weep for the salted caramel ice cream we will not be eating.)


Then we found a beach. For a girl who doesn’t love being wet and has a hesitant (but hopeful!) relationship with nature, I really feel at home by the water. Sitting by the water with Brad, it’s so easy to be in the moment, relaxed, and grateful–everything I sometimes struggle to be inland.

In between the aquarium and the beach, we had an early dinner at this teeny hippie organic cafe–one of those places you pray takes something other than an old-fashioned barter for payment. Brad ordered a salad, which was fine, but we had just seen the staff carrying boxes full of plastic clamshelled lettuces into the store. Pretty sure it’s the same stuff we find at Costco. Organic, sure, but we could have that at home (and do. All the time). I ordered the house specialty: Mediterranean Tacos. Good choice. Soft, spicy eggplant mixed with onions and peppers and cradled in soft tortillas. But the best part were the dipping sauces: Soft hummus, extra-oily basil pesto, and fresh salsa. We shared them, couldn’t believe we two eggplant-haters just happily ate it, then went to the beach.

But the next night, we wanted them again.

I recreated them with the zucchini wasting away in our fridge (because if you think I willingly bring eggplant into my kitchen, you are dreaming).


Mediterranean Zucchini Tacos
makes roughly four or five servings

We topped our tacos with regular yogurt for a few bites before remembering the bowl of paprika-spiced yogurt in the fridge. Either one is yummy, but I liked the heat of the spiced version.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 zucchini, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
8 0z. mushrooms, cubed
3 handfuls spinach
dried thyme
cayenne pepper (or dried hot peppers if you have them)
fresh tomatoes, diced
raw cheddar cheese, shredded
sprouted tortillas, warmed
paprika-spiced yogurt (from this recipe) or plain yogurt

Melt butter with oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, garlic, onion, and pepper and saute until halfway tender. Add mushrooms and cook down until tender. Toss in spinach and spices to taste. When the spinach is wilted, remove from heat.

Sprinkle a layer of cheese on a tortilla. Spoon the veggie mixture into the tortilla, top with fresh tomatoes, parsley, and yogurt.







  1. Dad

    1. Ten grapefruit for a buck?!? I would have hit the brakes so hard the pads would need to be replaced.
    2. Eat the sardines.
    3. A hopeful relationship with nature??? Who are you, really? And what have you done with my daughter?

  2. joannalinberg

    1. I know. What were we thinking driving by??
    2. I don’t eat sardines.
    3. So far nature and I are getting along. But I haven’t gotten poison oak yet, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

  3. Shanna

    What a cruel twist of fate that Tim and I were in Monterey in spring 2012 and you and Brad in June 2013. SO close! SO far!

    But beyond that, compatibility–the kind that means enjoying trips together, sharing thoughts together, walking through aquariums together–is one of the best gifts I know. I love hearing about it in you guys. I love the God who designed marriage to be that way. It’s beautiful.

    Oh and also, tacos! I love tacos, too.

  4. Tim

    Ha, I love that shot of Brad! I think Shanna got one of me in front of the same sign. Yesssss.

  5. Danisa Flowers

    Whoa! That photo of the jellyfishes is majestic! I haven’t been there yet but it sure is going to be on my vacation trip list. Also, thanks for sharing the recipe of Mediterranean Zucchini Tacos. Will try making it this weekend.

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