I have a bit of a problem cooking in the summer: I don’t have a grill. In my teeny tiny kitchen in my shoebox studio apartment I only have an oven and a stove, and for some reason I have been having a hard time figuring out how to make light and summery food with those two pieces of equipment. This past weekend I made a delicious braised chicken with paprika and vegetables, but it was a meal better suited for a cold winter day and not, literally, the hottest day in DC history. The vegetarian lasagna I made the next day, with fresh summer squash, zucchini, and eggplant (most from Dad’s garden) came a little bit closer to tasting like summer, but then again turning on the oven when your AC isn’t really at its best is not something I want to do very often.
Enter the grill pan. Now, it’s not a perfect substitute for the flavor of a real outdoor grill – gas or charcoal – but it’ll do in a pinch. The only two drawbacks are that my smoke alarm goes off every time I use it and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to clean, even if it is non-stick. The things you put up with for tasty food!
Last night’s meal of grilled shrimp and mango with grilled polenta and black bean salad was inspired by a mental inventory of what I had in the pantry and the fridge. I had several ears of corn that had to be used, a can of black beans, red onion, garlic, mango, and a tube of pre-made polenta that was an impulse purchase at Trader Joe’s. A quick stop at the grocery store on the way home and I had the rest of my ingredients for under $10. As my friend Anna would say, “done and dusted!”
For the polenta I simply sliced it, rubbed it with canola oil, and seared it on the grill a few minutes on each side. It gets nice and soft, but still holds its shape, and is a perfect vehicle for either shrimp or black bean salad.
Quick and Yummy “Grilled” Shrimp with Mango
½ lb de-veined, shell on shrimp (whatever size you like)
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp canola oil
Salt and Pepper
1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
Combine shrimp and mango in a bowl. Mince garlic finely and sprinkle with salt, then use the side of your knife to mash it into a paste by working it back and forth. Add to shrimp and mango. Squeeze in lime juice, add canola oil, and a couple grinds of fresh cracked pepper. Stir together and allow to marinate for about 30 minutes (which just happens to be enough time to make the salad!
Heat a grill pan to medium high heat. Lay shrimp and mango on grill pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip. If you have skewers you can thread the shrimp onto them for easy flipping. When they’re pink on both sides, quickly remove everything from the grill and finish with a squeeze of lime. Serve with salad and rounds of grilled polenta.
Black Bean and Corn Salad
3 ears fresh sweet corn
1 can reduced sodium black beans, well drained
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
½ jalapeno pepper, finely minced
½ red onion, finely diced
½ cup (more or less to taste) cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 3 limes
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp canola oil
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add shucked fresh corn. Break the ears in half if necessary. Cook for 3-4 minutes then remove from water, run under cold water, and dry off. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan (usually a reversible pan that is a “flat top” on one side and has grill ridges on the other) over medium heat. Rub corn with canola oil and place on hot grill, turning every 1-2 minutes, until some char is evident on kernels. Remove from grill and let cool (also turn off the heat as grill pans tend to get smoky).
Combine black beans, cherry tomato halves, jalapeno, and red onion in a bowl. When corn is cool enough to handle, stand it up on one end and use a knife to cut kernels from cob. Add to the rest of the ingredients. In another bowl combine cilantro, mustard, lime juice, vinegar and canola oil. Whisk until combined and then pour over black bean and corn mixture. Stir to combine and let marinate while you cook the shrimp.