|(Clockwise from top) Mandarin Orange and Macadamia Pico de Gallo, Grilled Pineapple Salsa, and Blue Mesa Grill Guacamole.|
Blue Mesa’s Liz Baron shares simple recipes for light and tropical summer party fare.
LIZ BARON’S COOKING TIPS
Separate cilantro leaves from stems (both raw and cooked); the stems can give your dish a soapy flavor.
The secret to delicious guacamole: make it immediately before serving.
Know your heat tolerance. Chili peppers range from mild to hot: jalapeÃ±o, serrano, and habanero, respectively. Buy accordingly. Remove and discard the pepper’s seeds to cut the relative heat level by about half.
Use gloves when handling hot peppers”preferably latex, hospital-style gloves, but dishwashing gloves will do.
An easy oven-roasting method for nuts, peppers, or tomatoes: place ingredients on a well-oiled sheet or cookie pan and roast in a 425-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once or twice.
Grill vegetables on the highest heat
possible, with the lid closed, and try for even charring, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
A quick and easy way to peel veggies: transfer grilled or oven-roasted vegetables to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand 3 to 5 minutes; the steam will help separate the skin from the meat.
To seed a tomato, cut the tomato in half at its equator. Over a bowl, use your fingers to pop out the seeds. Add a strainer to the bowl if you want to collect the tomato juice.
The lexicon of food”and how culinary terms find their way into our every day vocabularies”is hardly a study in logic. Some of the most tempting delicacies have strange, and not especially appetizing, translations: foie gras means fat liver. Phyllo means leaf. And the literal translation of pico de gallo is the beak of the rooster. Myths about the origination of the last abound: some say the traditional method of eating pico de gallo, with the thumb and forefinger, resembles a rooster’s beak pecking at food. Another theory, and the one that local restaurateur Liz Baron of Blue Mesa Grill subscribes to, is that pico de gallo adds a peck of flavor, or bite, to any dish.
We asked Liz, who co-owns and operates five Blue Mesa locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, for a simple and seasonal alternative to the ubiquitous chips and salsa. Her update of this party staple has a tropical twist: a gourmet-style spread featuring fresh guacamole, grilled pineapple salsa, and mandarin orange and roasted macadamia pico de gallo. Serve these with blue tortilla chips, and your guests will never think of chips and salsa in the same way, she says. (Tasty tip: leftovers can be refrigerated for three to five days and used as garnishes for grilled chicken and fish an easy flavor boost for an otherwise ho-hum weeknight dinner.)
When it comes to beverages, Liz recommends opening a crisp sauvignon blanc, such as Noblio or La Playa, for wine enthusiasts. Sauvignon is the perfect complement to the nutty, citrus flavor of the macadamia pico. Or you could always serve the quintessential summer cocktail, the margarita, which goes nicely with all of the dishes “and we Texans, we’re weaned on the stuff.
Blue Mesa Grill Guacamole
2 medium ripe avocados, seeded
1 1/2 ounces red salsa
1 teaspoon serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1 wedge fresh lime
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
dash of white pepper
dash of granulated garlic
pinch of crushed dried oregano
Score avocado pulp with a knife while in shell and scoop pulp into bowl. Using two forks, mash pulp into chunky consistency. Add remaining ingredients (increase amount of serrano pepper for hotter guacamole), and mix until fully incorporated. Transfer guacamole to a serving bowl and serve with yellow and blue corn tortilla chips.
Grilled Pineapple Salsa
1 fresh pineapple, peeled and sliced 1-inch thick
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1-inch thick
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced 1-inch thick
2-4 serrano peppers, seeded and chopped
5 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of 1 lemon
Grill pineapple and onion slices over open flame until medium charred. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove core from pineapple slices. Dice pineapple and onion into 1-inch pieces. Add half of pineapple, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and all spices to a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour puree into serving or storage bowl. Add remaining diced and chopped ingredients along with fresh lemon juice. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
Mandarin Orange & Roasted Macadamia Pico de Gallo
1 cup macadamia nuts, halved
1 cup mandarin orange segments, halved
2 cups pico de gallo (recipe follows)
Pan roast macadamias in nonstick pan over medium-high heat until golden brown, tossing frequently. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Fold all ingredients together gently.
2 cups Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup red or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1/4-1/2 cup (depending on your heat tolerance) serrano or jalapeÃ±o peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.
|Blue Mesa Margarita on the Rocks|
Blue Mesa Margarita on the Rocks
1.75 ounces Sauza Hornitos or your favorite reposado tequila
.75 ounces blue curaÃ§ao
lemon/lime-based sweet and sour mix
Fill a shaker glass (about a 14-ounce glass) with ice. Add tequila, blue curacao, and float the ice with sweet and sour mix. Shake well and serve.
Basic Texas Margarita
1.75 ounces Sauza Hornitos or your favorite reposado tequila
.75 ounces Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of 3 fresh limes
Fill a shaker glass (about a 14-ounce glass) with ice. Add tequila, Cointreau, and sugar. Float the ice with lime juice. Shake well and serve.
Liz Baron and her husband Jim always dreamed of owning their own restaurant. A graphic designer by trade, Liz finally got her chance when she and Jim opened Blue Mesa Grill in 1987. Today, she oversees the operation of five restaurant locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and spends most of her time marketing the restaurants and their future locations. Liz is currently finishing her term as the past president of the Dallas chapter of Les Dames dâ€™Escoffier, a charitable association of professional women in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality. Since its founding in 1984, the Dallas chapter has raised more than $600,000 in endowments, scholarships, and grants with its annual Raiser Grazer event. For more information, visit www.ldedallas.org.