Mexican Grill

As a teacher, August means back to school. The depressing commercials start, and you feel guilty on any day that you’re not in your room getting ready. Sometimes you have to know how to distract yourself, and eating something so delicious that it still feels like the middle of summer (read: July), with stress and work still weeks away, is the perfect distraction. This combo of beef, shrimp, and corn, all cooked on the grill, has become our go to meal. Beer and margaritas can help with the distraction, too…

I’m not giving much in the way of proportions since they really depend on the number of people you’re serving and how much protein or corn you’re using. If you eyeball and are tasting frequently, then you won’t really need exact amounts. I’ll give starting points and you can go from there.

For the shrimp:

This marinade is more than the sum of its parts – honestly I think the magic ingredient is the flavor from the charcoal grill.

  • Shrimp, shelled and thawed if frozen (I usually do about 1 pound)
  • Fresh orange juice (start with half an orange)
  • Agave syrup (or honey)
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Neutral flavored oil

In a bowl big enough to hold the shrimp, whisk the orange juice, agave, cumin, salt, and dash of oil together. Taste for balance (you could also add a squeeze of lime juice or some minced garlic) and then add the shrimp. Toss to coat and allow to marinate for about 30 minutes to an hour.

For the beef:

  • 1 flat iron steak
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (these are the base of a past to rub on the steak, so you may need more or less depending on the size of your steak)
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • ancho chile flakes or powder
  • Mexican oregano and/or epazote, if you have any
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tequila
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Neutral flavored oil

Mash the chipotle peppers and then add the remaining ingredients to taste (if you’re using two chipotles, I’d start with about 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1/4 teaspoon of the garlic and onion powders, 1/2 teaspoon of ancho and oregano, salt and pepper to taste, a glug of tequila and a little bit of oil, and the juice of half to a whole lime). Taste the paste and adjust as necessary.

Spread the paste on the flat iron, coating evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

For the corn

This has been the biggest hit of the summer!

  • Four ears of sweet corn (soak these whole in water for a couple of hours before grilling)
  • Plain yogurt
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cumin
  • Fresh lime juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, very finely minced or grated
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • Cotija cheese (or any dry, crumbly cheese); crumbled

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt and mayo (I’ve been using about 2 parts yogurt to one part mayo), cumin, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Preheat your grill. Start with the corn in its husk. Grill until charred on the outside. Remove and let cool while cooking the beef. As soon as you are able, pull the silk and husks of the corn and return to the grill. Cook the corn, turning occasionally, until the some kernels are beginning to char, some are golden brown, and some are still yellow or white. Cook the shrimp last, as they’ll only take a few minutes a side, depending on the heat of your grill.

Baste the corn with the sauce and then roll in finely crumbled cotija cheese (don’t forget the dental floss after dinner). Slice the beef thinly, and serve everything with tortillas, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, black beans, avocados, tomatoes, or whatever else you love in your tacos.

We’re making this (again) tonight, and I am going to experiment with taking the corn kernels off the corn once it’s grilled, then tossing it with the sauce, cheese, and extra lime juice. The benefit is that it will require less flossing, the downside is that it is going to enable to me eat a LOT more than I probably should. Oh well, it’s summer, right?


Roasted Tomato and Shrimp Pasta

It was only recently, last summer actually, that I finally appreciated fresh tomatoes and realized what all the hubbub was about. I was nearly 31 when I, for the first time, ate a raw tomato and liked it. Not surprisingly, the tomato was fresh from my own garden, not an out of season, mealy supermarket tomato.

Now that I don’t want to spit out raw tomatoes as soon as I eat them, I’m growing to truly enjoy them. So far my favorite has been sliced and sprinkled with flakey salt and pepper, drizzled in really good extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, and then topped with seared halloumi cheese.

I’m particularly tickled by cherry tomatoes, probably because that is what my first happy memory is attached to. They are lovely roasted, and when it’s too hot out for a complicated meal but you can find a little time to turn the oven on for just a bit (maybe in the morning when it’s a little cooler), this makes for a great summer meal.

Roasted Tomato and Shrimp Pasta with Feta

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Fresh herbs (such as thyme, oregano, rosemary)
  • 5 – 8 garlic cloves, still in their skins
  • Pinch of sugar, if the tomatoes are not summer sweet
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Salt and pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound whole wheat short pasta (such as penne)
  • Feta

Mix the tomatoes with the olive oil, herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper. Bake at 375 until tomatoes are just starting to burst and caramelize, and garlic is soft.

Boil the water and cook the pasta. In a large nonstick skillet, heat a little olive oil with the roasted garlic from the tomatoes (squeeze it from the skins.) Add the shrimp, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices to the shrimp when they are just cooked through, then add the pasta and taste for seasoning (keep in mind the feta will add a little salt). Add feta and serve. This would also be great with a squeeze of fresh lemon.