Finals are over…YES!!!!!!!
Sorry about that, I needed to have a bit of a release. I’m good now. Won’t happen again.
Now with finals over, what better way to celebrate the first weekend of break by grilling Mexican-style? It may not be summer in Southern California (which is, for the most part, year-round here)—in fact, it might even be pouring rain outside—
—but a grilling celebration was definitely in order last night.
A tip for an amazing date night if you ever run out of good ideas (or even if you don’t): stay in. I’m dead serious! Start by finding recipe for a flavorful and hands-on dinner and then go to the market before getting together with your date.
Then, instead of going out on the usual mundane sit-down dinner date, make dinner together. “A man who can cook?” Yes, every girl wants that. You can share food, swap stories (sleepwalking does make for a very funny story), and—in our case—bask in the heat of the grill and in the relief that finals are finally done with.
Nights like this—and food this delicious—well, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?
Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Mango Salsa
This recipe has four steps. First, we need to marinade the chicken. I used this recipe.
Cilantro Lime Marinade
Juice and zest of 3 small limes
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of any fat (I used 2 very large breast of chicken, which is equal to about 3 chicken breasts; this made for a very tangy and tender chicken which Girlfriend and I loved)
Place all ingredients in large zip lock bag and combine thoroughly. Add chicken breasts and mix until breasts are evenly coated. Place in refrigerator to marinate for 2-4 hours.
The second and third steps are to make the salsas. First comes the Pico de Gallo, adapted from a recipe I found on CHOW.
Pico de Gallo
Fun fact: “Pico de gallo” means “rooster’s beak.” Weird, eh? Some say the shape and red color of the chile in the original salsa are reminiscent of a rooster’s beak.
3/4 cup white onion, minced
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, seeded (doesn’t need to be seeded) and finely chopped
1 tablespoon serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced (about 2 medium chiles) (I didn’t use these because Girlfriend doesn’t love heat; if I made this for myself, I’d go all out)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 small lime)
Combine ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Season to taste with salt.
Next comes the mango & cucumber salsa.
Mango & Cucumber Salsa
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired; again, I skipped out on this)
1 small cucumber, peeled (not totally necessary) and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Finally, you’re ready for the fourth step: Putting it all together.
Place some tortillas in a pan or on a griddle on low heat to warm. Preheat grill, then take chicken out of the refrigerator and place directly onto grill, but don’t throw out your bag. Cook until chicken is charred on either side and inside is completely white (i.e. no pink!), about 6-9 minutes on each side. Periodically spoon extra juice from zip lock bag over chicken to prevent it from drying out (this is key!). After chicken is fully cooked, place on cutting board and let it rest for about a minute (this prevents you from losing precious juice and marinade inside the chicken). Slice chicken, then plate 2 tortillas, sliced chicken, and either salsa. ¡Delicioso!
Note: This makes a good amount of salsa, so if you don’t have any tortilla chips on hand or don’t want to store extra salsa in your fridge (which I do highly recommend for subsequent snackage), you should probably halve each salsa recipe. Also, for two people I would suggest 2 chicken breasts (therefore you should halve the marinade recipe); Girlfriend and I had enough chicken for two more tacos. Rule of thumb: 1 regular-sized breast for every 2-3 tacos.
¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!