I am extremely season-oriented. You can see it in my house, you can see it in my lipstick (!), and you can see it in the dishes I prepare. There’s no right or wrong here – it’s just what I do. And I get really offended when restaurants offer menu items that are completely off-season, but that’s another story…
There is one dish that I make year-round, and that is fajitas. One might think of them as summer pool-party food, but they are just as good to eat when the pool is closed. Of course, you have to like Mexican and Southwestern flavors; that’s the only pre-requisite.
One reason why I like making them is that I can serve them buffet style, which allows everyone to create their own fajitas. Side dishes can be simple, as well, like rice and beans. Also, very little work is done at the last minute. You can use chicken or beef, and also serve a vegetarian version. There’s very little in the way of seasons that dictates the ingredients.
The only exception to this, for me, is during tomato season. I will always prepare and serve fresh tomato salsa with fajitas, and maybe also a cooked version like peach salsa made with fresh peaches. But during the other months, I’m completely okay using my canned salsa, or any good, prepared salsa. Other than tomatoes, fajitas are really good and in-season all months of the year.
Following is a recipe I created for dinner on January 2nd, 2012:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon adobo powder
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 chicken breasts, quartered
2 red bell peppers, cut into long pieces
1 or 2 onions, sliced
Juice of 1 or 2 limes
A whole bunch of cilantro
Sour cream, optional
Place the olive oil, adobo powder, garlic, and salt in a little food processor jar and blend until smooth. Place the pieces of chicken breads in a bowl or bag and add the marinade. Store in the refrigerator overnight, or at least four hours.
Before you’re ready to grill the chicken, bring the chicken pieces to room temperature, but keep in their marinade.
If you’re not familiar with adobo powder, you can use a combination of oregano, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper in the marinade. I buy 16 ounce bags of Adobo powder from Penzey’s.
Meanwhile, using a wok or large skillet, sauté the bell peppers and onions together over high heat to begin; you want a lot of caramelization. Turn down the heat a little after a minute or so, and continue to sauté for another few minutes. Stir in the lime juice and give everything a toss, then remove the veggies from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Set aside.
Prepare a grill or griddle pan over high heat. Add the pieces of chicken and all of the marinade. Get the chicken nicely browned all both sides, then reduce the heat and make sure they cook through. You can tell if they’re done by tapping on them with your tongs; if they’re still mushy, they need to cook longer. Once they’ve firmed up, place them on a cutting board.
Just before everyone’s ready to eat, after the chicken has sat for at least ten minutes, slice the chicken into thin pieces. Get out the tortillas and warm them, if necessary. ( I used a corn-flour tortilla on this day and they do require a little heating.) Put out the salsa, sour cream, and anything else you want to serve with the fajitas.
This recipe served four people, but can easily be doubled or tripled, depending on the number of guests.
note: Besides refried beans or any kind of beans, a rice casserole with lots of green chile peppers and cilantro and cheese is also a good side dish to serve with fajitas, and can be kept warm, along with the beans, until serving time.
Vegetarian Sweet Potato Fajitas
The vegetarian option for fajitas in my house involved sweet potatoes. Use at least two sweet potatoes, because the meat eaters like the addition of sweet potatoes in their fajitas as well, and either bake them or roast them. Slice them up into wedges, and serve with the bell pepper and onions, and the salsa.
note: Roasted or grilled sweet potatoes are preferable, but on this day I just baked them, and they were still meaty and lovely!