As I was celebrating the shameless drinking holiday oft misunderstood as Mexico’s Independence Day this weekend, I learned that a) Cinco de Mayo is not even terribly important in Mexico, and that b) it was mostly invented by American spring breakers crossing the border to get wasted, so says a friend who happens to be Mexican. So why is New York city, a far cry from Tijuana, also crazy for this holiday? Sure, there was a battle in Puebla, Mexico on that date. And, uh, a great one at that. A victory feast was probably eaten… cut to the chase — let’s barbecue!
chicken and veggie shishs get fired up
This year, Cinco de Mayo happened to fall on a beautiful spring weekend in New York. It was the weekend that you got the grill back in shape, found a couple of extra plastic deck chairs to perch yourself and a smattering of friends on, and drink a lot of cold beer and cocktails. That first weekend in spring that we can do this is a holiday on its own merit. Food-wise, our palates have turned to lighter, brighter and perhaps sweeter flavors like bumblebees pining for pollen. In a word, to barbecues.
But my friends and I weren’t the only ones having an outdoor feast in Clinton Hill that day. Up and down Clinton Ave. from Greene Ave. to Willoughby St. there were sidewalk stands selling all sorts of household wares, jewelry and knick knacks — as well as some tasty-looking baked goods, and on one particular block, a massive row of homemade nosh like barbecued chicken, mac and cheese and cornbread.
dirty rice and rice and beans, collards, corn bread, lots more stuff…
Figuring that most of the food I’d end up eating on Saturday would likewise be greasy, fried and smothered in cheese, I brought this salad to the table. Combining tangy mangoes with a hint of scallions, cilantro and radishes and carrot for some color and crunch, it’s a bright — if somewhat crowded — parade of summer flavors. Somewhere in between a slaw and a salad, I’d think could go well with any summer fiesta. But a fake Mexican salad for a fake Mexican holiday — perfect.
Cinco de Mango Salad
(makes a lot of servings)
1 small head green leaf lettuce, shredded
1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
2 scallions, chopped
2-3 Tb fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas, roughly chopped
1 carrot, shredded
3 radishes, sliced
for the dressing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 Tb olive oil
2 shallots, minced
Dash of salt
Combine mayo, vinegar, shallot lemon juice, sugar and a dash of salt in a small mixing bowl. Stirring vigorously, slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture is emulsified. Combine the chopped, washed and dried veggies, fruits and herbs in a large salad bowl. Drizzle dressing over and mix thoroughly.
1 head green leaf lettuce: $1.49
About 1/4 bunch of cilantro (at $1.99): $0.50
3 radishes (at $1.49/bunch): $0.50
2 scallions (at $0.50/bunch): $0.20
1 cup sugar snap peas (at $2.99/lb): $0.80
1 carrot (at $0.99/bunch): $0.25
1/2 lemon: $0.15
1/4 cup mayonnaise: $0.22
2 Tb olive oil: $0.20
2 shallots: $0.20
sugar, salt, 1 tsp vinegar: $0.10
Two brownie points: This salad has a lot of different nutrients swimming in it, hence its cheery dayglo colors. A good dish to serve buffet-style, since the dressing gets more absorbed into the veggies and thus more flavorful as it sits out, at the expense of a little wilting.