Ever since we returned from Rome its been snowing in Amsterdam. It reminds me of my days at Syracuse where I trudged through the snow in my construction worker Timberlands, dressed in flannel shirts and bundled in puffy coats, hats and mits. The white pillowy flakes dropped from the gray sky sideways creating 3ft snow banks alongside the walkways as we walked to class. “Dangerously cold” the TV would warn us on some days when they would cancel primary and secondary schools. But not Syracuse University, it was rarely closed, and we were the ones who had to tramp through the slush and sludge.
So for the first time in nine years I am living in a place where it snows. And I am vastly unprepared. I’m slipping around in my fake Uggs with no tread, or my feet are frozen in my leather boots. This lack of windproof gloves, non-knit hat and leggings begs a trip to our local market which operates everyday (except Sunday) and apparently in 4 inches of snow. The market was particularly festive on Saturday due to impending SinterKlaas holiday the next day. Free hot wine was being poured freely and one vendor was giving away mangos, because he couldn’t sell them the next day because they would rot. I pick up two hard mangos, we buy some white fish and thinking about how to beat the cold winter blues, we decide that we should pretend that we are back in Phoenix (one of our stops on our US road trip where it was 113 degrees) and go for Mexican food that evening to a highly recommended place called Los Pilones and then make something tropical with the mangos on Monday. Lord knows this is not how i usually like to cook, with out of season produce flown in from Ecuador, fish that was apparently from Africa, but when you start to lose the ability to distinguish grey skies from blue, drastic measures are in order.
I must say though that when a fresh layer of white blankets the bridges, the houseboats, the cobblestone streets and the lampposts are twinkling with an orange glow, it’s all quite pretty. So before our “Phoenix” Mexican dinner, we take my newly purchased tripod out for a spin to capture this peaceful city enveloped by this white carpet.
Now with frozen fingers we enter the warm and cozy Los Pilones. I’m always skeptical of eating Mexican food in other countries. Because, let’s be honest, for good Mexican food you need two things – imported ingredients and Mexicans. And I was quite pleasantly surprised with how authentic the food was. The trio of salsas were legitimate and the enchiladas Mole was the perfect mix of chocolate and chili. And even topped with Crema! The margaritas served in a huge martini class actually tasted freshly made and came with an extra little glass for an additional serving. It’s almost really like we’re somewhere warm! And After coming back from the bathroom Stefan reported he even saw Mexicans in the kitchen! hurrah! Two thumbs up for Los Pilones,!!
Being from Texas, I tend to crave mexican often and it’s just really difficult to get many of the required ingredients here, such as dried chilis, adobo chilis in chipotle sauce, tomatillos, or even corn tortillas. Even black beans I can only find dried, so I have to soak them overnight, then cook them for an hour and a half. Thus, Mondays have become Mexican Mondays because I have to start preparing the beans on Sunday.
Given that we had free mangos that traveled so far to get to us in Amsterdam and still pretending we are on some tropical island as the snow continues to fall, this Mexican Monday consisted of Panga (a firm white fish) with grilled mango salsa and a black bean and corn salad with some mexican rice. When cooking this my fish started falling apart, which made me think this would actually be a great recipe for fish tacos. Top with crema and some shredded cabbage and it would be delicious!
Panga with Grilled Mango Salsa
3/4 pounds firm white fish such as Sea Bass, Sea Bream, Panga, Tilapia, Halibut
Olive oil for brushing the fish
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 firm mangoes
1 red peppers, diced
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 limes
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Preheat grill. Slice each mango on either side of the pit to yield 2 thick slices. With a large spoon, scoop mango flesh in one piece from mango skin. Repeat with all slices. Season with salt and pepper. Place mango slices cut side down on grill and grill for until lightly charred, about 2 minutes. Flip mango slices and grill 2 minutes longer. Set mango aside to cool.
Combine red pepper, green onion, jalapeño pepper and olive oil in a large bowl. When mango slices have cooled, dice them. Add diced mango to the mixing bowl with lime juice, cilantro and salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
Brush fish on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill fish about 5 minutes per side, until just opaque in the center. Garnish fish with mango salsa and serve immediately.
Sweet Corn and Black Bean Salad
Simple to prepare, colorful and flavorful, this salad combines fresh sweet corn, tender black beans, crisp red peppers and zesty cilantro in a simple rice vinegar dressing.
1 cups fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups no-salt-added cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add corn and cook for 1 minute, then drain well, rinse in cold water and drain again. (If using frozen corn, skip this step.) Meanwhile, rinse onions in cold water to remove some of their sharp, acidic flavor; drain well and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to make a dressing. Add beans, corn, onion and bell pepper and toss until just incorporated. Cover and chill for about 2 hours. Add cilantro and toss again before serving.