Thursday, August 09, 2007

Light Mexican Feast

During the summer I crave Mexican beer. Pacifico, Dos Equis, even Corona if i must. Mexican beer is so incredibly refreshing in a way that only Coors Light can beat, but also surprisingly flavorful in a way that Coors light absolutely is not.

However, Mexican food during the hot hot summer weeks is not appealing. Melted cheese and heavy beans and over-marinated meat is a major turnoff when DC is this humid.

This week i came up with a light Mexican meal that was ridiculously easy and quick to throw together. i got home from work at 6:30, did a quick shopping trip (2 blocks to whole foods) and had the full meal on the table for 5 people by 8:30pm. And we had cold refreshing Pacifico!

Here is the menu:
Black Bean Soup with Avocado Salsa - Serve in bright colored bowls
Spicy Corn Salad
Chicken in a Creamy Tomatillo Sauce - i served both the corn salad and the chicken on a white plate arranged with lime slices and cilantro for garnish.

The Recipes... Most of these are adapted from Food and

Black Bean Soup with Avocado Salsa
* 6 cups drained and rinsed canned black beans (three 19-ounce cans)
* 3 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
* 2 tablespoons cooking oil
* 1 onion, chopped
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1/2 cup dry sherry
* fresh-ground black pepper
* 2 avocados cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley ... cilantro is better in my opinion
* 6 radishes, halved and sliced thin ... or use red bell peppers or red chili peppers, seeded
* 2 tablespoons lime juice

1. Combine 3 cups of the beans and 1 cup of chicken broth in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat, add the sherry, and boil until reduced to approximately 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes.
3. Add the bean puree, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, and the remaining 2 cups of chicken broth and 3 cups of beans. Boil soup until it has reduced to a consistency that you like. I prefer a relatively thick soup so i let it boil down for at least 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the avocados, cilantro, radishes, lime juice, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix gently. Spoon the soup into bowls and top with the salsa.

Chipotle-Corn Salad

• 5 ears of corn (a bag of frozen whole corn)
• 1/2 medium Vidalia or Walla Walla onion, thickly sliced crosswise
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• a bit less than 1/4 cup sour cream
• 2-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice depending on tastes
• 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped
• 1 scallion, thinly sliced
• Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the corn and onion slices with the olive oil and grill over moderately high heat until charred in spots but still slightly crisp, about 7 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut the kernels from the cobs and coarsely chop the onion. If using frozen corn cook them in a separate pan from the corn.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream with the lime juice, chopped chipotle chilies and sliced scallion and stir in the charred corn and onions. Season the corn salad with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Chicken in a Creamy Tomatillo Sauce

Tomatillo is one of my favorite things to cook with. It seems unusual until you taste it and realize you've been eating it at Mexican restaurants for years. I love that its light and sooo versatile.
* 3/4 pound fresh tomatillos--husked, rinsed and quartered
* 1/2 cup beer, such as a pale lager
* 2 medium canned chipotle chilies, stemmed and seeded - keep seeds if you want it to have a kick.
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
* Four 6-inch corn tortillas
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 pounds)
* Freshly ground pepper
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup heavy cream - i didn't try this but i bet you could substitute sour cream
* 1/4 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°. In a food processor, puree the tomatillos with the beer, chipotles, garlic, vinegar, sugar, oregano, 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon of salt.
2. Heat a medium skillet. Brush both sides of the tortillas with vegetable oil and cook over moderate heat, 1 at a time, turning once, until crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
4. Melt the butter in the large skillet. Add the tomatillo sauce and heavy cream and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Lay a tortilla on each plate. Slice the chicken breasts and arrange on the tortillas. Sprinkle with the mozzarella, spoon the sauce on top and serve.

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