Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Joyful Salad

What happens when you mix lemon-yellow corn and night-black beans in a frying pan with some oil and lime juice and chili powder? Magic! What happens when you throw these things in a bowl with sunset-coloured mango and fresh, crunchy lettuce that reminds you that spring is just around the corner and top it all with chicken and a dressing that dances on the tongue? Delight! What happens when you manage to get all the elements on one forkful into your mouth with minimal spillage? Pure joy.

Initially, I wanted to call this a "Southwest Salad". But I've never actually been to any of the Southwestern states (except in my wildest dreams) so I'm not 100% sure this could be classified as "Southwestern". Because I think my idea of that region of the world is at best ill-informed by subpar taco kit commercials, Tex-Mex bar food and 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman'. And I thought that maybe the idea that everyone in this area lives in adobe houses, wears turquoise jewelry and rides on horseback while eating refried bean tortillas might just be as tiresome as Canadians living in igloos, tripping over beavers everywhere and having their crime managed by adorable Mounties. So I decided to keep my cultural uncertainty to myself and call this what it was: a joy to make, a joy to eat. A Joyful Salad.

It didn't take long to throw together. It's open for adapting to your personal taste; add bacon, add a soft, unripened cheese, add tomatoes, cilantro, crumbled up tortilla chips. Just don't forget to pour yourself a cold glass of beer and get a slice of crusty bread with a generous slathering of butter or cream cheese or whatever tickles your fancy. I swear, if you close your eyes mid-mouthful, you can almost feel the sun on your face.

As always, please bear in mind that I made the approximate amount for one person who loves leftovers. And eats big plates of stuff. Feel free to double the amounts for two or more participants.

Joyful Salad:

vegetable oil for pan-frying
1 boneless chicken breast cut into chunks
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2-3/4 cup corn, ideally fresh, but frozen or canned will do just fine
1/2-3/4 cup black beans, rinsed
Juice of 1 lime (or more, if you're like me and love it fierce!)
1 ripe mango sliced and diced into smallish chunks
1/2 bunch of romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
Shredded cheddar

1. In small frying pan, heat some oil and add chicken breast chunks. Pan-fry till golden and well cooked - cooking times will vary depending on stoves or using fresh or frozen chicken, so I won't offer a time estimate.

2. In frying pan heat oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute till almost translucent, about 5-7 minutes, over medium heat. Set aside to cool in medium sized bowl.

3. In same frying pan, heat up a touch more oil. Add the chili powder and paprika and stir constantly for about 1 minute. Toss in the corn and black beans and some lime juice and coat with the spice mixture. Gently saute for about 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool - you can lay it out on a baking sheet to speed it up. When cooled, throw it all into the medium sized bowl with the onion-garlic mixture, the mango and the chicken and more lime juice.

4. Wash and chop the lettuce. Dry it as best you can; any water will dilute the dressing. Add all the ingredients to the lettuce and serve the dressing on the side.

Southwestern Ranch Dressing, via Everybody Likes Sandwiches, featured on Poppytalk (whew!)

1 c buttermilk
1/4 c Greek yogurt
1/4 c mayonnaise
1 chipotle chili in adobo, minced + 1/2 t of the adobo sauce
1/4 t dried red chili flakes
1/4 t hot smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch each of dried dill & oregano
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
juice & zest of 1/2 lemon

1. Put all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake it till well combined! Easy, huh?

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