by Xani and Erin
This weekend, we threw our first party of the summer at Xani's house (codename: "TinyHouse"). Although we were concerned that not everyone would fit in TinyHouse (weather was calling for a slight chance of rain and we needed every square inch of the patio to hold everyone!), as you will soon see it worked out quite well and it was a great time!
Here was the menu for the party:
Bucket of Margaritas
Chips and Salsa/Guacamole
Spicy Black Bean Salad
Chipotle-Butternut Squash Quesadillas
Chicken and beef fajitas with peppers and onions
Most of the recipes we used were tried and true, and were big hits at the party (or so we're told). Although it does not conform with our usual snobbery, the guacamole, salsa, margaritas, and cupcakes were...store-bought - gasp! Sometimes you just gotta know when its not worth the time and energy if you can buy something that is just as delicious right out of the packaging, right? We think so.
The rest of the menu, however, was made from scratch. Let's begin with the black bean salad. Both of us have made this dish for our various parties, and brought it to others' parties - let me tell you, it will be a hit! Erin brought it to a party once and now is known as "black bean salad girl" to those who were at the party who can't remember her name. It is a title she wears proudly.
First, drain and rinse two cans of black beans (use more or less depending on how many people you are serving). Add about half a large red onion, finely diced. One of the most interesting and powerful ingredients in this dish is chipotle in adobo - it is key and we use it liberally! Add one chopped chipotle pepper, plus some of the adobo sauce. Then add some finely chopped jalapeno (taste the jalapeno first - if its hot, lighten up on the amount; if its not hot, don't worry about adding too much) and a handful of chopped cilantro. Then throw in about a tablespoon of garlic pepper, 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (though we used cider vinegar since we didn't have any red wine vinegar), 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the juice of 1-3 limes. All of these amounts are to taste - we are not very exact when we make this dish, its definitely very "a pinch of this, a handful of that," but sometimes thats just how cooking goes! Toss all together and let sit in the fridge for an hour or more. The flavors really come together with time so if you make this, its best to make it early in the day! The black bean salad is good either as a side dish (you would eat it with a fork) or as a bean salsa (you would eat it with a chip).
Next, we made the fajitas. For the chicken, we used a marinade our Mom has made for as long as we can remember. Important note: we used chicken thighs for this dish since they do not dry out like chicken breasts, and they are a lot more flavorful. For the marinade, place the chicken in a zippy bag, and add lime juice, olive oil, oregano, and salt and freshly ground pepper. Let sit for an hour or more in the fridge. We also marinated the peppers and onions in the same marinade.
For the beef, we placed about 3 pounds of beef (thinly sliced "fajita beef" from our local Mexican market) into zippy bags, added a can of beer, some orange juice, handful of cumin, salt, and pepper. Let sit for an hour or more in the fridge.
We then grilled all the meat and sliced thinly in preparation for our guests to make their own fajitas. (Note: It was SO HOT during the day that we probably could have cooked the meat on the hood of a car. Instead Xani sweated over the hot grill.) We did not grill the peppers and onions, but rather Erin cooked them in a pan - otherwise they would have been incinerated on the grill (or maybe she just wanted to stay in the air conditioned house!)!
We served the meat and vegetables with flour tortillas and we also put out sour cream, cheese, salsa, and guacamole for the make-your-own-fajita station.
Lastly, we made Chipotle-Butternut Squash Quesadillas, a recipe Xani invented a few weeks ago. We took the butternut squash (a favorite ingredient of Xani), peeled it, cut it up into cubes, and basically, cooked the hell out of it. We microwaved it for about 10 minutes until it was super-mushy, and mashed it with a potato masher until it was smooth. We added more chopped chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, and some chili powder. We wanted to add cumin but we used it all on the beef - oops! We let the squash mixture cool to room temperature and assembled the quesadillas and cooked them as the party start time came closer. To assemble them, we spread the squash on one side of the tortilla, then sprinkled shredded jack cheese on top, then added the other tortilla. On a lightly-oiled griddle pan, we cooked the quesadillas until they were golden brown and the cheese was melted.
When the guests finally arrived, it had cooled down considerably, and the threat of rain had passed. We managed to comfortably fit almost 20 people in the house/patio! Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, drinks, and atmosphere. Thank you to everyone who came by and made it a great night! It was a fun first party of the summer, hopefully one of many!
E & X
P.S. See all our party pics here: