the mexican table

lexitostadas2

A couple of Sundays ago, Aaron and I got together with Matt from Inspired Food and Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth for the continuation of our ‘Table’ series, i.e. a sequence of themed long-table dinners with several dishes per course prepared by each blogger (and in this case, some talented family and friends).

As per our Moroccan and Spanish Table posts, you’ll find my recipes from the dinner below, alongside links for recipes prepared by Jemima, Matt, Lexi and Jamie (Lexi being Jemima’s sister and Jamie being a friend of the group who also happens to cook at Co-op dining).

jemimacooktortilla guac

As per usual, it was a pretty epic afternoon filled with incredible food, abundant beverages (lots of beer and Mexican cola) and the best of company. A big thanks goes out to Matt and his partner Alyssa for hosting this year’s Table dinner at their gorgeous new(ish) home alongside their hero puppy Max (who has recovered from some massive medical complications over the past twelve months. So good to see him running around again).

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Props also go out to Aaron aka ‘the dog whisperer’ who managed to both create art and keep Max and Loki occupied whilst the rest of us prepared tostadas, guacamole and street corn. Serious skills right there.

Just look at these little faces:

mutts loki

Without further ado, here was our menu for the day:

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We did learn slightly from our last feast (emphasis on slightly) and created less dishes per person, however after hours of snacking on leftover guacamole, we were rather stuffed by the time dessert appeared.

But with something as epic as this masterpiece by Jamie (below, containing layers of brownie pieces, lime curd, pureed avocado, chocolate mousse, chocolate soil, candied and fresh finger lime and candied chilli; no I am not joking) we all took to the last course with gusto.

dessert2candiedfingerlime

The only one to scrape the glass clean was Aaron, who had paced himself through the main courses due to an erroneous belief that we had ‘about five more things to come’ (after his Spanish Table experience). Maybe I should try and do the same next time.

I hear we’re cooking Indian.

chillies sauce

Salsa de Chile Rojo

Makes 1.75 cups

  • 3ox (85g) dried chillies – I used a combination of 70% smoky chipotle and 30% mixed arbol, ancho and pasilla (be aware that the combination of chillies you use directly affects the heat level of this sauce. I went a little overboard – as in mindblowingly hot but incredibly delicious – you might want to ‘up’ the ancho and pasilla content to 50%)
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) tomato sauce
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp crushed sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cumin seeds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Spread the dried chillies in a single layer over a heavy baking tray, then transfer to the hot oven. Toast for 3-4 minutes, turning if necessary, until fragrant (do NOT allow your chillies to blacken or burn as they’ll become incredibly bitter). Allow to cool.

With a sharp knife, remove the stems, seeds and membranes/pith from the chillies.

deseed

Discard. Place the remaining chilli flesh into a large bowl and cover with the hot water (add a little extra if they are not completely submerged). Soak until softened (about 45-60 minutes).

Process the soaked chillies in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer into a medium saucepan with the garlic, oil, remaining water, salt, oregano and cumin.

Simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use straight away or transfer into a sterilised jar or bottle for later use.

corn3

Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

Based on this recipe from Serious Eats with reference to Sam Ward’s Esquites recipe published in Recipes and Ramblings Volume II (Beaufort St Network)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
  • 2 tbsp whole-egg mayonnaise + 1 tbsp to serve
  • 1/3 cup (100g) feta or cotija cheese, finely crumbled
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced spring onions
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (to taste), seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • zest and juice from 2 limes + extra lime wedges, to serve
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp arbol chilli powder

Heat a char-grill or barbecue to high heat. Ensure all strands of husk are removed from the corn, then grill on each side until you achieve a ratio of about 30% very dark to 70% lightly charred corn (if you don’t have a barbecue, feel free to do this over a gas flame. Just be very careful!). Allow the corn to cool completely, then remove the kernels with a sharp knife.

Place a large heavy based frypan or pot over medium heat and add the oil. Sweat the the spring onions, jalapenos and garlic until translucent. Add the corn, lime juice and a good splash of water (about 1/2 cup) then bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 10 minutes or until the corn is cooked and the mixture is fragrant. Add in the lime zest, mayonnaise, cheese, coriander (reserve a little to serve), about half the arbol chilli powder and a good dash of salt and pepper (to taste). Mix well and transfer to a large bowl.

Dollop over the reserved tablespoon of mayo, garnish with coriander and dust with the remaining arbol chilli powder. Crack over some black pepper and serve with lime wedges on the side.

prep

cornsalad2pop

Until next time, keep track of Matt (aka Inspired Food) via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and say hello to Jemima (aka Feed Your Soul, Perth) right here: Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

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blackened corn salad with ancho chile and lime

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It’s a beautiful spring day today, gently warm and dappled with colour. The breeze drifts softly over sun-drenched trees, heady with sweet rose and eucalyptus. Bird calls are echoing outside my window, intermingled with the urban hum of tyres against blackened tar. I love days like this. The argent hues of spring bring the promise of summer; days at the beach, floaty sundresses, balmy evenings in the garden eating ice cream with sticky fingers.

corn

As a diasporic Australian, I’ve always had strong associations with summer. The crackle of scorched grass underfoot, frozen spearmint milk, iceberg lettuce and the whir of an oscillating fan; all of these images mean ‘summer’ to my mind.

As I’ve grown older, Mexican food has also become one of my summer associations. It’s something to do with the colour, textures, spice and one-handed portability; perfect for nights by the pool drinking ice-cold Sol with lemon.

bowl avo

Though I’ve always been a fan of crisp quesadillas, guacamole and cheesy tacos, it’s only been over the past three years that I’ve discovered the delicious freshness of ‘real’ Mexican food such as spiced tamales, mole poblano and lime-drenched elotes or ‘seasoned corn on the cob’.

My first bite of fresh, blackened corn slathered in Mexican cream, crumbled cotija, chilli flakes, lime and garlic was heavenly. I’ve been eating it in various forms ever since.

husks jalapenos

One of my favourite ways of eating Mexican corn is in salad form, namely esquites or ‘Mexican street corn salad’. It contains all of the main ingredients of elotes but removes the need to gnaw at a sticky corn cob (less cheese on face and more in mouth is a win, in my opinion).

As the months have passed, my version of esquites has evolved to contain more herbs and less sticky, cheesy ingredients. Of course, the cotija remains, but the mayonnaise and Mexican cream have been replaced with creamy avocado and fruity olive oil.

cherrytoms cherrytoms2

The end result is a light, fresh corn salad that retains its lime-drenched goodness within a less cloying package. The fresh corn, colourful peppers, soft herbs and creamy avocado pay homage to my Mexican Corn Salad of one year ago whilst being ‘amped up’ by pickled jalapenos, powdered ancho chile and black pepper.

I’ve piled this corn salad into a soft tortilla with grilled fish and sour cream for an easy hand-held dinner. It’s also been a regular on the barbecue rotation alongside grilled asado, chimichurri and creamy potato salad. But in the late afternoons when I’m sitting alone in my kitchen, I just eat it from the bowl with a spoon. It’s that good.

plateface

Blackened Corn Salad with Ancho Chile and Lime

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

  • 4 ears corn, freshly washed and husked
  • 1/2 medium green pepper
  • 1/2 medium red pepper
  • 2 whole avocadoes
  • 5 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 200g mixed cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • a handful of mint*, washed and chopped finely
  • a handful of coriander*, washed and chopped finely
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp pickled jalapenos, drained and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated cotija, crumbled feta or Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper

*you will need equivalent of 1/4 cup chopped herbs, mix and match as desired

Using a pair of heat-proof tongs, carefully rotate your corn cobs over a naked flame (gas cook top or portable gas hob) until hot and slightly blackened. When cool enough to handle, hold each cob over a medium-sized bowl and use a sharp knife to remove the kernels.

corncook cuttingkernels

Whist still warm, add in the juice and zest of one lime, salt and pepper, the ancho chile powder and a good slug of olive oil. Mix well and set aside.

peppersplit veg

De-seed your halved peppers and chop each into a rough dice (about 1x1cm). Peel your avocadoes and remove the stones. Cut each into a similar size dice to the peppers, then squeeze over the remaining lime juice to prevent browning. Add the peppers and avocado to the corn mix with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well, taste and season as necessary.

fin mixed

This salad is perfect in burritos or tacos, served alongside fish or chicken. It’s also great as part of a barbecue spread, accompanied by good bread, guacamole, chipotle sauce and copious amounts of char-grilled meat.

haute clup peppers

mexican corn salad

Sunlight filters through the security door as I sit listening to the low hum of the air-conditioner on the wall. It’s the final week of October and… well, I think Summer is well and truly on the way. Yesterday the barometer hit 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and today’s predicted to be 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit). Definitely the right weather for icy mojitos, trips to the beach and dinners on the balcony as the sun dips beneath the trees.

If you’re one of those nice people who read my last post, you might remember that I contemplated starting a new Summer recipe series. Well, this is the first installment of that series, which I’ve entitled ‘Summer Salads’ for the sake of giving it a name. At my house, salads are eaten all year round, mostly due to the fact that we’re fortunate enough to have mild winters here in Western Australia. Due to this fact, I’ve developed an obscenely large repertoire of salads, both warm and cold, the latter of which I’m going to be sharing with you over the pending Summer months.

Today’s salad is one that I’ve made (possibly) hundreds of times, mostly due to the ease of assembly and the fact that it goes fantastically well with everything from grilled fish to barbecued chicken, tortillas and tacos. I’ve called it a ‘Mexican Corn Salad’ as it’s core ingredients echo those found in many Mexican recipes… but with a slight alteration of ingredients you can transform it into any corn salad you like. I’ve included some of my own variations below, which I hope will be welcome additions to your recipe repertoire over the Summer months. However, as with all of my recipes, I’d encourage experimentation… just remember that with salad recipes, freshness, colour and a balance of ingredients is the key to success.

Mexican Corn Salad

Serves 4

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • 1 avocado, peeled and roughly chopped (or scooped out of the skins with a spoon)
  • 1/2 small Spanish (red) onion,  finely sliced
  • 1/2 punnet (about 150g) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice from 1 lime (or lemon)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (use less if you can’t tolerate chilli)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place your corn cobs in a medium saucepan on the stovetop and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then drain and immediately refresh in cold water to stop the cooking process. When your corn cobs are cool enough to handle, place them upright onto a chopping board and use a sharp knife to remove the kernels (see below). Place the kernels into a medium-sized bowl to continue the cooling process.

Once your corn has sufficiently cooled, add your remaining vegetables to the bowl. Mix together your lime or lemon juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt and pepper in a screw-top jar. Replace the lid and shake briefly. Taste and adjust as necessary (if you find that your dressing is too acidic, you can add in a little bit of honey). Pour over your salad and toss to combine.

So that’s your finished salad. For a Mexican-style feast, I’d suggest that you serve a spoonful wrapped in warm flour tortillas with some sliced grilled chicken, guacamole, shaved queso manchego viejo (delicious Mexican hard cheese, substitute with Cheddar or Parmesan) and some herb-infused sour cream. To make the lemony, herby sour cream, just place about 100ml of sour cream into a bowl and add in the juice of half a lemon, freshly chopped mint and coriander, a pinch of dried mint, a little ground cumin, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Top with a drizzle of lemon oil, then dollop over your tortilla filling. Deliciously easy and a great crowd-pleaser.

Notes:

  • As above-mentioned, this salad is very open to adjustments and substitutions. To keep with the Mexican theme, you can feel free to add in some sliced red peppers (capsicum), finely chopped cucumber or grated cheese. To transform it into a more traditionally Australian salad, omit the tomatoes, lime, Spanish onion and chilli, then substitute in some quartered baby beets, crumbled feta and sliced spring onions. The dressing stays the same, except that I’d recommend using lemon instead of lime. This is a delicious accompaniment to barbecues.
  • If you’d like to serve this salad as a main meal with some grilled chicken or fish, just add in about half a cup of cooked white quinoa or brown rice. Double the dressing, and add in a squeeze of honey for sweetness. This is great with a spoonful of the herb-infused sour cream on the side.
  • Another delicious serving suggestion is to pile a spoonful of this salad into a taco shell with fried ground beef or Chili Con Carne, grated cheese and some herb-infused sour cream. Add salsa or guacamole as desired.
  • The normal ratio of oil to acid (vinegar or citrus juice) in salad dressings is 3:1, however in this recipe I’ve reduced the oil component as I like the freshness of the vegetables to be unobscured by oiliness. Test your salad and adjust it to suit your personal taste.
  • There’s no replacement for fresh corn in this salad. Frozen and canned corn kernels will do in a pinch, but they won’t have the sweet juiciness that fresh corn kernels have. If you’re going to use frozen corn, I’d suggest cooking the kernels as briefly as possible to prevent them from becoming waterlogged.

So that’s the first installment of my ‘Summer Salads’ series completed… check back here in a couple of weeks for the next recipe: Baby Beet Salad with balsamic onions, goat’s feta, soft herbs and toasted walnuts.

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