Spicy Summer Supper

I really am all about the Tex-Mex this week, and this dinner was no different. One of my favorite combinations is quinoa with corn and zucchini. Often, I make it with goat cheese and basil and it is a light dish perfect for a hot summer evening. This time, I wanted to try something a little different and found a Southwest version using the same main ingredients. It turned out delicious and brought out a completely different flavor profile than my usual.

Southwest Zucchini and Corn Quinoa
Adapted from Closet Cooking 

Serves 4

1/2 batch taco seasoning (see below)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
3 ears of corn
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3/4 cup queso blanco, crumbled

First, mix the taco seasoning, water, and quinoa in a medium sauce pan and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes until the water is absorbed, the quinoa is tender, and the little white spirals show. Fluff with a fork and keep covered until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, cut the corn kernels off the cob and saute with the zucchini and jalapeño in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Saute until everything has softened a bit (about 7 minutes).
This corn is so sweet and creamy! Hard to beat.
To serve, put 1/4 cup of quinoa in a bowl, top with 1/4 of the veggies, a handful of cheese and 1/4 of the cilantro. So delicious and just spicy enough!

 

Taco Seasoning

Also adapted from Closet Cooking

Mix together the following in a small bowl.

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Note: The original quinoa recipe calls for (and I used) a full batch of taco seasoning to be cooked with the quinoa. I think 1/2 to 3/4 of a batch would be better…it got a little gritty with all these spices. Plus, I like the taste of quinoa and couldn’t taste it at all with the full batch used. To add some extra heat, you could always use a hotter pepper in the saute, another jalapeño, or even some cayenne. Yum!
~CM
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House Warming Experiments

Yesterday, my dear friends were moving into their new apartment and I wanted to bring over a special treat. I was taking the train up to see them, so I needed it to be easy to transport. After my cousin sent me the link to Smitten Kitchen’s pea pesto, I spent a long time perusing her wonderful blog. If you haven’t read it before, check it out! I was especially intrigued by her post on homemade ricotta (or ricotta-inspired soft cheese). I decided to try it out and also make a version of the pea pesto.

When it comes to the cheese, it was remarkably easy! And the end result was delicious. I highly recommend it. Because I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe verbatim, I’m just going to post my pictures. Check out her blog for the details. NB: The fresher the milk you can find, the better the cheese will end up.

I used my Le Crueset because you should use a non-reactive pot. I was concerned about using non-stick so this was my best alternative. After heating the milk and cream to 190 degrees, I added the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, let the cheese sit for 5 minutes and poured the whole shebang through cheesecloth.

This is what it looked like when it first went into the cheese cloth. After this, all you do is wait! Let the cheese drain for about 2 hours. As it drains, it hardens and the curds become more visible. After 1 hour, you could already see a big difference:

After an hour, the cheese has reduced a bit, though there is still a lot of whey mixed in with the curds. By the time it was done draining, it had reduced to about a cup and a half of curds. The lemon gave it a nice fresh, summery taste. After I go to the gym a few more times, I am definitely making this cheese again!

When I first saw the pea pesto recipe, I knew it was something I wanted to try. In our CSA share this week, we got another small bag of delicious looking peas. I shelled them and we had about 1/2 cup total. I knew this wouldn’t be enough to make the pea pesto as directed, but I knew I still wanted to include the peas.

Perfect fresh peas!

Because I didn’t have enough peas, I decided to fill out the pesto with garlic scapes and basil! I’d been wanting to make garlic scape pesto anyway, but, again, based on quantity (and my need to eat them right away) I haven’t been able to make it yet. I chopped the four garlic scapes into about 1 inch pieces, just using my kitchen shears, and tossed about a cup of basil into the food processor.

I blanched the peas for about 4 minutes while toasting pine nuts in a dry cast iron skillet.

Once everything was ready, I tossed 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, all the peas, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and about 1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese into the food processor and blended until smooth.

The pesto became the most beautiful vivid green color and had a delightfully smooth texture. The peas lended a touch of summer and mellowness that is unusual for pesto. The garlic scapes added just a bit of bite and heat and the basil filled it out with a classic pesto finish. We served these on slices of baguette with the cheese spread first topped with the pesto. I ate probably two thirds of it and it was delicious (if I do say so myself)!

Don’t you wish I brought this to your house? Luckily, you can make it for yourself! The pesto is also delicious tossed with pasta. Just reserve a bit of the cooking water to help it bond to the noodles and smooth out the texture.

~CM