Quite frankly, the news came as a shock. Canceling plans? With us? Who does she think she is? We hurled expensive glass objects and gnashed our teeth and beat our chests and sobbed messily into each other's shoulders. And then we blew our noses, collected ourselves, and had the party without her. Sorry, Vanessa!
And what a party it was. Sizzling steak fajitas, elote slathered with cojita cheese, margaritas—it was like eating at Chili's, but without the ugly decor. Jealous yet, Vanessa? You should be.
Friday night fajitas
Guacamole and chips
Watermelon with lime and chili pepper
Rice and pinto beans
In all seriousness, this was a fine way to spend a Friday night and Vanessa, you were missed. I usually don't like having a lot of people over immediately after work, but this meal was simple enough to assemble (I also did a few things in advance) that it didn't feel hectic. Shout out to Julie who brought excellent, still-warm tortillas from one of the tortilla factories in her neighborhood, the Tortilla Triangle, A.K.A. Bushwick.
I also made lazy margaritas, which always help in terms of my attitude and expediting drinks into everyone's hands. Purists would probably throw Patron bottles at me for this recipe, but hey, it's delicious! Instead of squeezing limes or making simple syrup, I use good-quality limeade along with the triple sec (Yes, I know—triple sec is inferior to Cointreau. But it's much less expensive!) and tequila. You just mix all of the ingredients in a big pitcher, float some lime slices on top, and serve over ice. Salted rim optional.
You could substitute lemonade, or even pomegranate juice for the limeade, but be sure to choose a brand that isn't just corn syrup and artificial flavoring. When you're only using three ingredients for a cocktail, it makes a difference.
(Serves 8 to 10 people)
Triple sec (I like Hiram Walker)
1 lime, sliced thin
In a pitcher or punch bowl, combine 2 parts tequila, 1 part triple sec, and 1 part limeade. Stir to combine and add lime slices. Chill and serve in glasses over ice.
The sleeper hit of the night was elote—roasted corn with a creamy, salty topping. You can buy it at street fairs here in New York, or at one of our favorite summer spots, the food carts at the Red Hook ballfields. But it's also really easy to make at home. I roasted the corn in the oven, but if you have an outdoor grill, you can roast the corn in the husk and it will taste even better. I can't wait to hijack my parents' grill this summer and try it that way.
I adapted this recipe from the very talented Food Blogga. Her elote looks nowhere near as gloppy as mine, but no one complained about the extra cheese. In general, I find that to always be the case. You can serve elote as part of a meal or as a starter, just make sure you have plenty of napkins for everyone.
(Serves 6 to 8 people)
6 ears sweet corn
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or chile powder, plus extra for sprinkling
salt, to taste
1/2 cup crumbled cotija anejo cheese (or queso fresco, both should be available in Mexican markets or the dairy section of your supermarket)
finely chopped cilantro for a garnish
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place corn in husks (no need to soak first) directly on the middle rack of the oven (or on cookie sheets) for 30 minutes, or until corn is soft to the touch. Allow to cool slightly, then remove husks and silks, and add toppings. (I cut my corn in half.)
Place crumbled cheese on a plate large enough to fit an ear of corn. In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, cayenne pepper or chile powder, and salt. When the corn is cooked, brush each ear with some mayo sauce then roll in the cheese. Sprinkle with additional cayenne pepper or chile powder, and the cilantro.