Now that it’s summertime, there are just certain flavors that I want to eat more of. Bright, tangy citrus; crisp sugary corn; cool, creamy avocado… These are the refreshing tastes of summer that we look forward to all year!
This past Friday, I found myself with the combined mission of making something healthy, seasonal and delicious for dinner, while also making use of some of the leftovers from classes last week. The fact is, at the end of nearly every culinary class, I haul home plastic tubs and aluminum rounds full of all sorts of delicious and unique meals. Many of them, like chilis and soups, I’ve been stashing in the freezer because I know how much I’ll appreciate them in the fall when cool weather rolls back around and we’re knee-deep in our Pastry Module. But the majority of meals we bring home, like the endless quantities of grilled steaks, braised chicken, and trussed rabbit, are highly perishable. I hate to admit it (and know there are many who will chastise me for this), but most weeks a lot of the amazingly delicious food I bring home winds up going bad, and in the garbage, simply because as an individual, I’m not physically capable of eating it all!
That being said, I was thrilled that my Friday night dinner recipe was able to capitalize on both the marinated hanger steak we grilled up on Tuesday night, and the Mexican Chicken stew we braised with three types of roasted chilis. Both were absolutely delicious and added a great sense of variety to our summery dinner menu. You’re probably wondering what that was by now!
Chicken and steak tacos with an avocado-corn relish and mango-cilantro brown rice! To be honest, this came out even better than expected, considering left-over steak and chicken were major components of the dish. But once the hanger steak was thinly sliced and the chicken was shredded and tossed in a bit of the smoky peppery stew sauce, I popped both types of meat in the toaster oven and a few minutes later it was steaming hot and ready for enjoyment. Tips for reheating left over meat: Slice it thin so it can heat through quickly, and hit it with a little non-stick cooking spray before you heat it up – the oil acts as a conductor for the heat!
Once the meat was hot and ready to go, I toasted up the authentic corn tortillas (from Trader Joe’s, of course) with a little cooking spray and sea salt in a small pan. They got nice and toasty, and we topped them with a smear of sour cream, a few slices of meat, a little shredded cheese, and the star of the show – the avocado-corn relish.
How can I describe the wonderfulness of this avocado-corn relish? Let’s see. It’s like everything good and creamy and flavorful about guacamole, but with more crunch and an explosion of sweetness from the kernels of fresh, raw corn. And because it’s chunky instead of smooth, like guac can be, it adds an amazing texture that is totally different from anything else in the taco. Tons of bright flavors plus a mix of complementary textures gives you a comforting and satisfying summertime meal. Plus, it’s so fresh and light, you won’t feel weighed down or “food coma-y” after eating it. Add a side of mango-cilantro brown rice, and you’ve pretty much got it made in the shade
Avocado-Corn Relish - Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Adapted from Epicurious.com
- 1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 ripe red tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 ear sweet corn, shucked
- 1 jalapeño pepper , seeded and minced (for a hotter salsa, leave the seeds in)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
Place the diced avocado in a mixing bowl and gently toss it with the lime juice. Add the diced tomato and toss to combine. Cut the bottom off the cob of corn to create a flat surface. Then, standing the corn upright, cut downward using a chef’s knife to remove the kernels. Add the corn kernels to the mixing bowl.
The salsa can be prepared to this stage up to 2 hours ahead. Refrigerate it, covered.
Just before serving, add the jalapeños and cilantro to the mixing bowl and gently toss to mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more lime juice as necessary and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mango-Cilantro Brown Rice Pilaf – Makes 4 servings
- 1 cup of brown Jasmine rice, or other brown rice
- 2 cups of water
- 1 large mango
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime juice to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and saute a minute more, until fragrant.
Add the brown rice and toss well with the oil, onions and garlic until the rice is well coated with oil. Then add the water and bring the rice to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer over very low heat and cover. Resist the urge to stir the rice; stirring it will reduce the separated grain “pilaf” quality of the rice. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until rice has absorbed all the water and is tender.
Once rice is cooked, fluff with a fork. Add the diced mango and cilantro and toss to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add lime juice to taste. Serve along side corn tortillas, avocado-corn relish, and other taco fillings of your choice.
Oh, and a margarita on the rocks. Just sayin’.