As I’m writing this it’s drizzling, and since we can’t play outside, Levi is entertaining himself with a drawer filled with various kid-friendly kitchen implements (the “decoy drawer,” as I call it, because it keeps him away from the dangerous stuff and buys me a few minutes here and there to write blog posts, fold laundry, or answer the phone). I swear that just yesterday we were enjoying the warmth of the early evening sun, grilling chicken in the backyard, and sipping icy pints of IPA. Levi was playing in his shark sprinkler — the perfect summer scene. How the weather changes on the central coast! And how we as mothers adapt as far as activities go for our kids.
Speaking of adaptation, meals take even more planning-ahead these days. Not only is Levi walking; he’s running and climbing — onto couches, chairs, boxes, whatever he can. You have no idea how many distractions I had to have in place in order to make this cherry tomato-black bean-corn salsa. It’s hard when every 20 seconds you have to look up from whatever you’re doing to make sure your son hasn’t scaled the bookshelf. But somehow I made it work and we ended up with this beautiful salad for dinner, which was perfect for a warm evening, but also sounds delicious now as I hear the pitter-patter of rain against the window.
The chicken is seasoned with a delicious spice mixture of chile powder, brown sugar, cumin, and coriander before being grilled to perfection. Then it’s sliced and set on top of crunchy romaine lettuce, along with a spoonful of the salsa, and sliced avocado, and dressed with a slightly sweet/slightly tart lime-cilantro vinaigrette. My slight adaptation to this Fine Cooking recipe is that we decided to grill some corn on the cob and add the kernels to the salsa, which added a nice sweet flavor and seemed to fit in with the southwestern theme. We also used romaine instead of Bibb lettuce, omitted the pine nuts (because we didn’t have any) and substituted chicken thighs for the chicken breasts. Our changes are reflected below. We hope you enjoy this dinner salad this summer. Its bold flavors will not disappoint.
Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Tomato-Black Bean-Corn Salsa
(Slightly adapted from the Aug/Sept 2010 issue of Fine Cooking)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 TBS. chili powder
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 large ear of corn, husked and lightly oiled
6 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBS. + 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 TBS. + 2 tsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
2 tsp. honey
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 of a 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (save other 1/2 for another use)
4 oz. small cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered or halved (about 3/4 cup)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 medium firm-ripe avocado
- Prepare a medium-high gas or charcoal grill fire.
- In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, and 3/4 tsp. salt. Rub the spice mixture over both sides of the chicken thighs (you’ll have some left over, but it’s a great spice blend for another use). Let chicken sit at room temp while the grill heats.
- Grill the corn until tender and the kernels are charred in spots, about 6 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Grill the chicken thighs until done, about 6 minutes, flipping once. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Using a knife, carefully cut the kernels off the cob (this is easier when done in a large bowl so the kernels don’t go flying everywhere) and transfer to a small bowl.
- In a small jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the olive oil, lime juice, 1 TBS. of the chopped cilantro, the honey, 1/2 tsp. salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a few shakes of Tabasco (if using). Shake well to combine.
- To make the salsa, add the beans, tomatoes, garlic, remaining 2 tsp. cilantro, and a pinch of salt to the small bowl with the grilled corn kernels. Add 2 TBS. of the dressing and toss gently.
- Put the lettuce in a bowl, season with a little salt, and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. (Reserve a little to drizzle on the chicken.) Arrange the lettuce on a platter or two dinner plates. Slice the chicken thighs. Pit and slice the avocado. Arrange the chicken slices, avocado, and salsa on the lettuce. Drizzle a little of the remaining dressing over the top. Garnish with cilantro leaves.