I love a bargain as much as the next guy, but some cheap things must be bought on principle. Take, for example, an $8 deep fryer we found at a thrift store. Sure, it’s not going to produce anything overtly healthy (so far we have fried tortillas, pickles, saltines, and beignets – no regrets so far); but at least by the end of exams, your brain won’t be the only thing breaded and fried.
Our deep fryer was full of possibility, easily outdoing any dorm’s vending machine as the best junk food machine around. Some were skeptical – “What are you going to do with it?” Better question, what were we NOT going to do with it. Visions of sugarplum fairies have nothing on beer-battered shrimp, crispy fried chicken, or fried dough. Soft corn tortillas, the precursor to a perfect dipping vessel, were on sale for about $3 a package of 30, so we picked one up. When we returned home, and cut each individual tortilla into 4 slices, we realized we had way more than a lot of chips.
A ritual was born: finish an exam or paper, and then start up the deep fryer. The reserve brain power we had left was enough to absently plop soft tortillas into our cauldron of scalding oil and watch them emerge as hot, honey-golden crisps. After a quick sprinkle of salt, they offered the perfect salty crunch to kick started our fading minds. But we weren’t finished yet. We wanted something to go with it… Chips + dips=bliss. (Unfortunately, I saw none of these equations on my finals)
The fridge revealed a Mexican powerhouse trio: jalapeno, lime and cilantro. Initially, we had planned on having guacamole and salsa on separate nights. But with the copious chip count, we wanted both. We upped the ante, added hummus to the dip list, and made all three for dinner. Each incorporated the three fresh ingredients, but had a uniquely defined character. Arranged elegantly on a long plate, we treated ourselves to velvety guacamole, vibrant salsa, and creamy hummus. Served cold, it was the kind of meal you could enjoy when it’s too hot for anything heavy. Although we had it as a dinner, it would also be an excellent appetizer before a meal of grilled chicken or flank steak.
2 avocados, mashed
1 lime, juiced
¾ cup cilantro, finely diced
½ small onion, diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 tsp salt (to taste)
¼ tsp cumin
1. Mash avocados into a paste.
2. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, and chill. Place plastic wrap over the guacamole (even when in a sealed container) to preserve freshness and color.
Makes about 2 cups.
1 (14.5 oz) can organic tomatoes, diced
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
½ red onion, finely diced
½ cup corn, frozen but brought to room temperature
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix together all ingredients. Serve chilled.
Makes about 4 cups.
Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus
1 (14.5 oz) can garbanzo beans, reserve drained liquid
1 T tahini
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1. Remove as many skins from beans as possible.
2. Place beans into food processor or blender. Blend, adding reserve bean liquid when needed. Should come out looking like a thick, beige paste.
3. Add tahini, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro to blender.
4. Season with lime juice, cumin, and salt.