Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cooking with Rod

Lime-Cilantro Grilled Chicken Fajitas
and Southwest Pineapple Salsa

      Hope all of you enjoyed a safe and loving holiday this Memorial Day weekend. This particular holiday is often hard for me as I remember so many friends and fellow Marines that did not make it home to celebrate. I am particularly thankful, though, to live in and experience the greatest country in the history of the world. Lord knows we have our iniquities, our problems, and our issues, but when everything is said and done, the Red, White and Blue still rules the world, at least in my humble point of view.

      Melinda and I spent a beautiful day with our daughter Melissa, granddaughter Erin, great grandson, Kingston and our nephew, Earl. A fun day was had by all. Melissa and Erin, as usual, were great hostesses and our precious Kingston was most gracious in his appreciation of our presence in his home. We are, extraordinarily, blessed and never lose sight of that.

      This weekend we were treated to Melissa and Erin’s great cooking skills with grilled hamburgers, baked beans and potato salad. We also took the opportunity to marinate and grill the chicken fajitas (which we all love) for later enjoyment. We tried out Melinda’s new recipe of Southwest Pineapple Salsa, using part as a pre-burger dip and splitting the balance for tonight’s meal of fajitas. So, this column is a collaboration between myself and my wife. (See our pic of this meal below.)

      Once again, God bless each and all of you, your families, your friends, those lost, those still serving, and especially those – who at this very time – are still in harm’s way. Above all, God bless the United States of America!

      Bon appetit!

Lime-Cilantro Grilled Chicken Fajitas

  • 3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

  • Juice of 3 fresh limes
  • Leaves from ¼ bunch fresh cilantro, removing all stems
  • Fajita seasoning mix, dry (I used Sprouts Whole Foods Market brand but I provide the recipe for my own Fajita Blend below)
  • 3 large bell peppers, deseeded, cut in long strips
  • 3 large purple onions, sliced to result in long strips
    Prepare two bowls or plastic bags to marinate, separately, the chicken pieces and the vegetables.
    Roll the limes around the tabletop or cutting board before cutting to permit the pulp to release its juice easily. Squeeze at least 2 of the limes over the chicken, the balance over the vegetables. Add the cilantro leaves, splitting about evenly over the two marinades.
    Sprinkle both the chicken pieces and the vegetables with a dash of the Fajita seasoning mix, remembering this mix is mostly salt, so no additional salt should be used. If your diet precludes use of salt, you can mix your own fajita seasoning mix the way I usually do. Mix the below ingredients in a bowl or cup, whisk together to blend and rub over the chicken pieces and toss the vegetables in some as well:
Rod’s Fajita Blend:
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dried cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • Dash of garlic powder
Leave the chicken pieces and vegetables in the marinade for at least an hour, or over night before grilling.
Grill over medium coals. Remove the vegetables as soon as they become translucent and lightly charred. Make sure the chicken pieces are done well by testing the thickest part. Juices should run clear.
We served these fajitas in flour tortillas, using Melinda’s Southwest Pineapple Salsa to spice things up.
Southwest Pineapple Salsa
(Melinda Cohenour – May 30, 2016)
  • 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 15 oz. can black beans, drained (rinsed if needed)
  • 15 oz. can pineapple chunks in natural juice
  • 1 medium or ½ large purple onion, diced fine
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced fine (no seeds or membrane)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, deseeded, diced fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed well, leaves only
  • Dash of Fajita seasoning mix (dry mix)
    Drain corn and black beans and place in medium large bowl. Add pineapple chunks and juice (I actually used fresh pineapple chunks in natural juice from Sprouts, a whole foods market here in Oklahoma City). Toss together.
    After finely dicing the purple onion, add to a glass or bowl of ice water. Leave for 5 to 10 minutes while you complete the balance of the recipe. This will remove the bitterness of the onion while leaving the flavor intact. Be sure to drain well before adding to the salsa dish.
    Dice the bell pepper after removing all the seeds and membranes. Try to make sure all your fresh vegetables are cut so that no piece is larger than the black beans, best would be between the size of the corn kernels and the beans. Add to the salsa dish.
    Mince and add the garlic cloves. Toss the salsa to let the garlic flavor begin to infuse the other ingredients.
    Mince the jalapeno pepper, removing all membranes and seeds. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth during this process, and make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after the job is complete. The oils from hot peppers can cause severe burning.
    Halve the ripe avocado, remove the pit and score while still in the skin with a sharp knife. To remove, use a large tablespoon that fits smoothly inside the skin. This will result in nice avocado chunks and prevent the ripe avocado from being mashed. Be sure to scrape out the remaining avocado from the skin shells and add to the bowl. This will provide the salsa with an avocado-lime dressing.
    Squeeze the juice of the lime over the avocado. To get the most juice out of the lime, be sure to roll it around the tabletop or cutting board before cutting. This will permit the pulp to release the maximum amount of juice before the fruit is cut. I like to cut the lime into halves and then into fourths, as that makes the pieces easier to squeeze. The lime juice lends a marvelous flavor to the salsa and will prevent the avocado from turning brown before serving.
    After rinsing the fresh cilantro, be sure to shake all the water you can before gently removing the balance using dry paper towels. Strip the leaves from the stems. I added most of the leaves to the salsa, but retained about ¼ for use in marinating the fajita grilled chicken, peppers and onions.
    Sprinkle a dash of the dry Fajita seasoning mix over the salsa dish, not using too much. Just a thin sprinkle over the top of the dish should be plenty.
    Toss the salsa gently so as not to break up the avocado. Chill until ready to serve as an ingredient in Lime-Cilantro Grilled Chicken Fajitas or, separately, as a dip.
This makes a colorful and tasty fresh chunky salsa, with just enough heat to keep it interesting.

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