There are many Boston restaurants I enjoy dining at—such as Taranta, the fabulous Peruvian-Italian restaurant in the North End, Masa, a Southwest bar and grill in the South End, and JP Seafood for sushi—but when Michelle asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday last month, I immediately said, “Centre Street Café,” in the heart of Jamaica Plain. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate a September birthday and savor the tastes of the harvest than going to “C Street,” as we call it, to eat chef/owner Felicia Sanchez’s delicious “Mexicali Composed Salad.”
The Mexicali Composed Salad is something I dream about in January, when the snow piles up in my yard and the only tomatoes that I can buy are pale, rubbery, and tasteless. For me, this salad—which features thick “meaty” slices of heirloom tomatoes, fresh local corn, and smoky black beans with a delicious lime cilantro dressing—is the essence of summer. In fact, Felicia only puts it on the menu when she can purchase local corn and tomatoes from Stillman’s Farm, which runs a farmers’ market in the bank parking lot right behind Centre Street Café.
Whether it’s a steamy summer day when it seems too hot to eat or it’s an early fall day with a bit of snap in the air, seeing the beautiful splashes of green, yellow and red tomatoes juxtaposed against the ebony of the beans and the bright yellow of the corn always whets my appetite.
While I’m usually one of those annoying people who ask for dressing on the side at restaurants, so I can dole out a miserly bit in a lame attempt to cut down on calories, I can’t resist the tangy brightness of the lime cilantro dressing, drizzled over all. The salad comes with fresh flour tortillas, folded into wedges, which are the perfect vehicle for scooping up a little of each element of the salad to create a perfect bite.
I love eating salad, but it usually doesn’t seem substantial enough to qualify for dinner, especially once fall hits. The Mexicali Composed Salad, however, really seems like a dinner entrée. First, you have to eat it with a knife and fork, because you have to “carve” each slice of tomato. Second, there’s a lot on the plate–more than I can eat in one meal. While it may not satisfy die-hard meat-eaters, it’s sure to please vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free (if you skip the tortillas) eaters.
Fortunately, for those of you who can’t stroll over to C Street for dinner, Felicia Sanchez graciously agreed to let my fellow C Street lover, videographer Kate Raisz of 42 Degrees North, make a video of her preparing the Mexicali Composed Salad, complete with the recipe.
Frankly, even if you don’t cook, I think you’ll enjoy watching Felicia talk about why she specializes in fresh local food. And if you need a whiff of summer perfume to cheer you up on a dreary winter day, this video is sure to revive you. Now, you can savor the taste of summer all year long.
Download the Recipes