Summer is here and I pray it's a long one. Toronto has been exceptionally rainy this year but the plants are lush and loving it. I spotted a few surprise mushrooms growing in my garden which I'm guessing is from the moisture. Their oblong tops are whimsical and look like they are from psychedelic posters with naked ladies and swirling colours.
Spicy, savoury, and a bit sweet– this meal is a perfect summer dish for rain or shine. It's not too heavy if it's hot out and your appetite is small. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit which on it's own is delicious. I marinated and grilled tiger shrimp and blended up an avocado-cilantro dressing for drizzling purposes. While we are at it, grill and caramelize some limes for cocktails (or mocktails) for a hint of smokiness. This paloma would be all the better for it.
Note about poblanos: Poblano peppers are a Mexican pepper originating from the state of Puebla. They are traditionally used in a dish called chiles relleños– poblano peppers roasted, stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg batter and fried. Served with salsa or tomato sauce, they are a delicious and gooey mess. Poblano peppers are green when picked fresh with a mild spiciness. They become ancho chiles when left to ripen to a red colour and dried. This recipe calls for fresh poblanos which can be difficult to find depending on where you are. If you must substitute, try mild jalapeños first, cubanelles if you prefer less heat, or green bell peppers if you desire no heat. I would not substitute ancho chiles. Although they are the same pepper, they taste completely different taking on a smoky flavour in their dried state.
Who knew corn husk could be so stunning. Isn't she beautiful?
Summer barbecues are the best. The smell of food and smoke, people gathered together cracking beers, and soaking in the sunshine. Sometimes the barbecue bleeds into nighttime and takes on a new wild vibe. I love it all.
Years ago on a hot July day, my best friend and I moved into a new apartment on one of the most beautiful streets in Toronto, Palmerston Avenue. The street is lined with large lamp posts and old homes with mysterious attic windows and front hanging balconies. I heard a story years ago about these street lamps. It was that a rich couple used to live on Palmerston and one day the wife began falling ill with dementia. On walks she would lose sense of where she was and become lost among the streets. Her husband bought elegant lamp posts to line their street to help her find her way home during a spell. I don't remember who told me this story but I thought it was tragically beautiful and stuck with me. After much research, I have found zero evidence to prove this story is true. I'll call it folklore (or someone trying to take me home from the bar). When you say you live on Palmerston Avenue to someone from Toronto they go all “ooooo" and “aaahh" and “what a beautiful street, your place must be amazing!". Our place was amazing... when it was built in the early 1900s. Unfortunately no work was put into it in sixty years. It was the eyesore of the street.
We were weak, sweaty and dehydrated after the ten hours of moving our stuff into the apartment. Our neighbours helped us with some furniture at the end like the lovely humans they were. This was good timing since we almost threw out a one of our beds from sheer fatigue. They invited us to join the barbecue they were having and we were eager to accept hunched over and expired from the heat and the day. We decided to take a quick shower before heading over so my roommate Alex got in first and one minute later started screaming. I ran into the bathroom to see the faucet from the bathtub had blasted clean off and there was water spraying out in every direction with Alex naked trying to shield herself from the explosion. “MEGAN MAKE IT STOP!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!" she screamed. “I'M TRYING!!! I'M NOT A PLUMBER!!! I DON'T UNDERSTAND TAPS!" I yelled back while shoving my hand on and around the water stream doing nothing to help it. I turned taps back and forth for awhile until the water was only a constant drizzle. We said fuck it and I took a trucker shower (washing my face and armpits in the sink) and went down to join the barbecue. They served us chicken and corn which we inhaled with a few beers each. An intravenous would have suited us just fine. Soon after this day we became very close with our neighbours, but I don't recall anyone speaking to us at this barbecue. Probably because we looked like sickly wet rodents huddled together shoving food into our mouths as quickly as possible. And that was the beginning of our life on Palmerston Ave. It only got weirder from there. But it gave us many memorable stories which include (but are not limited to):
- a locked shed in the backyard with childrens' dolls and broken plates
- a bouncer/drug dealer called “Big Ron" who frequented out place at night unannounced looking for our neighbours who were always “out".
- a creepy old man entering our apartment at 3 am because he heard the toilet running.
All true stories. Stories for another time.
Now go soak in the sunshine and enjoy the summer while it's here, okay?
GRILLED CORN + POBLANO SALAD WITH SHRIMP
inspiration: fresh corn + hot sweaty days
the feels: spicy, sweet, savoury, light, fresh
eat with: palomas, margaritas, cucumber water, citrus/herb water, fresh squeezed juice, corona or sol, sangria, roasted potatoes, potato hash, steak, chorizo, cheese (cotija or feta), clams, crab.
might like if you're into: cantinas, inflatable water toys, learning about corn, backyard barbecues, rainbows after a storm.
serves 4 || cooking time: 15 mins prep + resting time: 40 mins
- 5 corn, in husk
- 2 poblano peppers
- oil, for grill
- 1 avocado
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tablespoon honey (or agave)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons water, start with 2 and add more as needed
- good pinch of salt
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lime, juiced
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoon chile powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper chile flakes
- Turn on barbecue. Clean grate if needed and oil well.
- Mix everything under the shrimp heading (except for the shrimp) together and pour into a resealable bag or shallow dish. Add shrimp and toss well. Keep in the fridge covered or sealed for minimum 30 minutes.
- Grill corn (dry and still in husks, no need to soak in water) and poblano peppers until charred, turning every few minutes once each side is blackened. The corn takes between 10 and 15 minutes and will be blackened/ dark brown on all sides. The peppers take between 8 to 10 minutes and will have blackened crispy spots and feel tender. Remove and let all vegetables cool.
- Shuck corn and cut off corn kernels into a medium sized bowl. Cut open peppers and remove seeds. Chop and add to bowl of corn.
- Remove shrimp from fridge and stab onto skewers. Grill shrimp on barbecue for 2 minutes per side.
- Add all remaining ingredients (from avocado to salt) to a blender/food processor and blend well. Keep adding water tablespoon by tablespoon depending on how thick (dipping consistency) or thin (dressing consistency) you prefer.
- Serve all separately and let people do what they want or mix salad, shrimp and dressing/dip together. Garnish with cut limes and cilantro if desired.