*This is a guest Op-Ed from Ted Stoner, Director of Strategic Product Development at Qdoba Mexican Grill.
Summertime is in full swing and with that comes an endless array of BBQs, vacations and my favorite: farmers markets, which provide an expansive variety of fresh fruits and veggies, and therefore an easy way to cook up healthy meals.
For me, this is one of my favorite times of year for food; largely due in part to the easy accessibility to seasonal eating. The idea of eating seasonally hit me during my travels through Mexico and United States. I kept meeting people who were creating unique meals only from the most naturally available veggies, fruits and meat.
As a chef with Qdoba Mexican Grill, I love spending my time in kitchens testing new ideas and recipes; seasonal eating offered a great way for me to experiment with the freshest ingredients and most nutritionally dense foods available.
Eating food that is naturally in-season is beneficial for your health, your wallet and your taste buds. Not only does food taste better when it’s fresher, but it’s also packed with more natural nutrients and generally less expensive. Here’s a look at three benefits of eating seasonally:
1. A Bounty of Nutrients & Antioxidants.
During the growing season it is much easier to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables that contain important antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, while avoiding pesticides, waxes, preservatives and other chemicals used to make produce look fresher during the “off-season.”
The seasons provide a natural way for you to consume a higher concentration of nutrients and antioxidants from food, nourishing your body and helping you stay at peak health and fitness.
2. Eat More (Seasonal Produce), Spend Less.
Fruits and veggies are typically cheaper to produce when they are in-season and therefore cheaper to buy as well. The cost of transporting produce locally, from their natural climate, is much lower than transporting foods across the country when they are not in-season.
Stop by a local produce market when fruit and vegetables are in season and you will most likely grab all of your favorites at a cheaper cost — it’s a win-win.
3. Taste the Natural Difference.
When you follow the natural growing cycles and eat seasonal vegetables, you are eating the way nature intended. Often times, you can literally taste the difference — flavors are stronger and the natural essence of the food is exposed in a way that isn’t experienced when foods are transported during off-season.
And naturally, one of the best times of year to eat this way is the summer; a time when many fruits and vegetables are at their peak. At Qdoba, we’ve been celebrating one of summer’s most delicious fruits, the mango, with the roll out of our Mango Salad in restaurants for a limited time across the nation for years. Since it has become so popular among our guests, our fans often ask why we don’t offer it year-round.
The fact is that we only use mangoes that are the peak of their ripeness and sweetness — which happens to fall during the summer months — so that the flavor of our Mango salsa is just right. And we aren’t willing to sacrifice the taste to keep Mango Salad on the menu during off-peak times.
Like our Mango Salad, we incorporate seasonal produce into our recipes as often as possible. I have spent hours in our test kitchen at Qdoba’s headquarters testing only the most flavorful ingredients and combinations to create delicious, handcrafted meals. This translates into hours of chopping, dicing, smashing, simmering, blending and grilling the freshest food available to create an exceptional experience for each guest.
3 Qdoba-Inspired One-Of-A-Kind Summer Recipes
So that you don’t have to go to these lengths for each meal you create, I wanted to provide you with a few one-of-a-kind summer recipes that you can grill at home jam-packed with this season’s fruits, veggies and fish. Recipes include:
Mega Omega Fish Tacos
Grilled Salmon Lettuce Cups w. Smoky Peach Salsa
Steamed Clams w. Simple Salsa Macha
While I chose fish that is in-season right now, you can substitute your favorite lean pork, chicken or protein option when these fish may not be at the at the peak of availability.
So go ahead — start delighting your taste buds and leave your body feeling great.
Mega Omega Fish Tacos
*Makes 6 tacos
Fish & Tacos
2 tbsp. key lime juice
18 key limes
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup light sour cream (optional)
2 cups cabbage, shredded
¼ red onion julienned
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, loose packed
½ cup radish, shredded (about 3 large)
½ cup carrots, shredded
6 oz wild salmon
6 oz mahi mahi
6 sea scallops
3 tbsp. quick adobo marinade (recipe below)
6 wood skewers
¼ tsp kosher salt
6 6” corn tortillas
Quick Adobo Marinade:
1 7 oz. can chipotle in adobo
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 oz. lime juice, fresh squeezed
1/2 tsp. mexican oregano
Step 1: Make the Quick Adobo Marinade —
Place 1 7 oz. can chipotle in adobo, 1 clove peeled garlic, 1 oz. lime juice, and 1/2 tsp. mexican oregano in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.
Step 2: Make the Mega Omega Fish Tacos —
Start by dissolving the sugar and salt into the lime juice. Stir in sour cream. This will be the dressing for the slaw.
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, red onion, fresh cilantro, radish and carrots in the dressing and chill for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than two hours.
Next, cut the mahi mahi, salmon, and scallops into 1-inch cubes.
In a large bowl, combine the seafood with the adobo marinade (below) and let it marinate for 10-20 minutes in the fridge.
While seafood is marinating, soak wooden skewers for 10 minutes.
Season fish with a dusting of salt, and skewer 1 piece of fish per skewer.
Let each skewer grill for 3-4 minutes per side (depending on grill temp) until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
For each taco, top a warmed soft corn tortilla with slaw, grilled seafood, and a thick slice of mango and avocado. Garnish plate with sliced key limes, and provide any extra adobo marinade (reserve the adobo marinade not contaminated by raw fish) and sour cream as condiments on table.
You can also allow each person to build his or her own taco by serving up each ingredient buffet style.