Summery Fresh Sweet Corn & Lima Bean Nachos
Nachos are kind of a big deal at our house. It’s a meal we can always agree on and one everyone anticipates with excitement. Neither our skeptical daughter with her still-developing palate or her parents with their more adventurous and sophisticated dietary streak will ever complain to hear it’s what’s for dinner. Crisp, salty corn tortilla chips topped with an unfussy mix of whatever good things happen to appeal that day, a layer of sharp, satisfying cheese melting, fresh, vibrant flavors on top, and a fun mix of condiments to tailor tastes as we work our way through them – what’s not to love, right?!
But nacho nights are more than that even. Maybe even as much as we enjoy the flavor, we savor the ritual of the dish. Often, nacho night is also family movie night. We’ll lay a blanket out in front of the screen ready to catch any errant toppings, and place a stand in the middle. Surrounded by an array of small bowls holding different varieties of salsa, sour cream, hot sauces, and sometimes extra toppings – pickled peppers, citrus wedges, sautéed onions and mushrooms for the grown-ups - we gather and eat with our hands from a single platter. Combating the savory cheese sipping light, refreshing drinks we mixed specially for the occasion - coconut flavored sparkling water, a little pineapple juice and a squeeze of lime - we unspokenly ensure that everyone gets their fair share. There’s no pretense or worry over good table manners. Bits of melted and slightly burned cheese and toppings fallen from their intended carriers are plundered with gusto almost equal to the actual chips. When we’re done, the tray is near spotless and everyone’s in a pleasant, indulged mood.
You might think eating a mainly vegetarian (we do eat some fish) diet would limit us here, but actually I think taking away the standard go-to proteins has made us more creative, and led tomore variety in the food we eat. When you remove something as normally ever-present as meat from your diet, substitutes to fill the gap left must be found. You begin removing preconceptions and start thinking of foods in categories – vegetarian proteins, starches, grains, acidic produce, savory produce, leafy greens, funky umami flavors... – and when you do, possibilities seem endless. You realize, nachos needn’t look like the kind we normally see. Yes, there are traditions surrounding them, but tortilla chips are essentially just a slightly sweet, slightly salty, crispy grain base for a meal. While ground meat might normally be the way we add interesting contrasting texture, flavor, and, from a nutritional standpoint, protein, to nachos, veggies can also fill that role quite nicely. Lately, as they’re two things everyone in our family can agree on, a mix of seasoned corn and beans of some sort have been our go to, but I also enjoy broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and tofu. The sky’s really the limit!
Though I’ll provide my no-recipe nachos recipe(Don’t be scurred! There’s no need for precision here.), I encourage you all to experiment on your own!
Get Your Stuff Together:
- A Bag of Tortilla Chips (My favorite are On the Border’s)
- A Block of Very Sharp Cheddar
- Corn (Fresh is ideal, but I used frozen for convenience.)
- Lima Beans (If you can find fresh, God bless you! I used frozen.)
- 1 Red Onion
- 1 Jalapeno + gloves
- Pickled Jalapeno
- 1 Clove Elephant Garlic (or maybe two smaller traditional cloves)
- Fresh Cilantro
- Fresh Parsley
- Tabasco's Smoked Chipotle Sauce
- Chili Powder
- Dried Oregano
- Sea Salt
- A Baking Sheet (tin foil on top makes clean up easier)
Assemble The Veggie Goodness
Nachos need next to no actual time in the oven so go ahead and get your topping together first. Defrost frozen veggies placing them in warm water then let them sit. For three people, I'll use a little more than cup of each, though, as I said, there's no need to be exact. If I were to go in one direction or the other though, I'd always air on the side of more. No one wants chips with no toppings and if you end up with extra, you've just got leftover mixed veg salad.
Meanwhile, get out your sharpest knife (The sharper the knife, the less you'll be tearing up!) and mince up your aromatics - the onion and garlic - and your peppers - both the fresh and a handful of the pickled sort. Since an unfortunate hot sauce making incident, I always recommend using gloves when handling jalapenos. ( "Oh God! My hands!! MY HANDS!!! GAHHH!!!!" *runs flailing arms into the distance*) Nothing the internet claimed could combat them actually did. The oils cause a burning sensation that you'll just have to wait out. Better safe than sorry!
We like things kinda spicy in our family, so I'll use a lot - almost a whole, medium-sized red onion and a whole fresh jalapeno - though, you can certainly use less. Chop a handful of each of your fresh herbs. I used both cilantro and parsley, though you could use just one or the other. I end up with about a cup of cilantro leaves and stems (Yep! Stems! They're good to eat too - just make sure they're well-chopped and avoid thick woody ends.) and a cup and half of parsley.
In a bowl, combine all of your frozen veg and garlic and half of your onion, jalapenos, and herbs. We want half cooked and seasoning the corn and limas covered in cheese and the rest fresh and topping the nachos once they're nice and melty.
Mix in Tabasco sauce and seasoning - chili powder, cumin, oregano and sea salt - to taste.
Top Your Chips
Like I mentioned earlier, my favorite are On the Borders - fresh taste, nice and crispy, evenly salted, sturdy enough to hold topping and cheese - but of course, you can use whichever brand you happen to have. Either way, spread chips out even on a baking sheet. Don't make the mistake of crowding them with too many overlapping chips. This leads to naked chips and naked chips lead to sad times. If you want more chips, get another tray.
Top evenly with your bowl of seasoned veggies.
Then top it all off with plenty of very sharp, fresh grated cheddar. Could you use mild cheddar? Sure, but sharper cheddar is lower is gas-making lactose and higher in probiotic content. Could you use pre-shredded cheddar? Sure, but it's got this chemical stuff added to it that no one really wants. Plus, very sharp, fresh shredded just tastes better.
Don't skimp. Be generous.
Got 'em covered? Time for the oven! 350 - just long enough to melt the cheese. Stick around and keep an eye on them.It won't take long.
Ah! A thing of beauty! Top them off evenly with the remaining fresh ingredients.
OH! How about some more that Tabasco's Smoked Chipotle sauce we used in the mixed veggie bowl?