Homework... I thought it was a thing of the past. But faced with an end of semester Spanish ll project including "creating a recipe with origins in a Spanish speaking country, photographing it and researching the ingredients" I volunteered to help when Liv needed to finish an ACT practice test. (This has been the summer of extra "get-ahead" work for this girl...) Recipes, photos and ingredient research, all kind of right up my alley.
Living in San Diego just 52 miles from the Mexican Border where Mexican food is akin to life itself, Mexico became our Spanish speaking country of choice.
Now for ingredients... corn? Historians believe that people living in what we now call Central Mexico developed corn over 7,000 years ago. Known as Maize, the corn didn't look, exactly as it does today, but the cobs with small kernels farther apart became a crop the Indians of South as well as North America heavily depended upon for much of their food.
As important as corn was to the indiginous Mexicans, so were beans, and you will find much of Mexican food based on these two ingredients. Apparently neither food on it's own provides a full complement of amino acids needed for protein synthesis, however put the the two together they do.
More recently, cilantro and lime have become known a quintessential Mexican ingredients. While they may not have thousands of years of history in the country, it's said that the conquistadors brought coriander seeds, cilantro, to Mexico in the 1500's. And as for limes, Mexico has been the largest exporter of the fruit since at least the 1950's.
Next we have my beloved avocado. Said to be a native of Mexico, the fruit is believed to have originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico where the oldest avocado artifacts have been found - dating back to 10,000 BC. Today though, California produces over 90% of the cultivated avocado crop.
Jalapeño... it's name taken from the Jalapa, the capital city of Veracruz Mexico, the jalapeño is the most widely grown chili in the country and has a history dating back to the Aztecs who smoked the chiles to preserve them.
And lastly quinoa. While not exactly from Mexico, quinoa originates from the mountains of Peru and Bolivia - which are both Spanish speaking countries and therefore fit our homework bill.
And there we have it. A dish filled with modern and historical Mexican ingredients which are also popular in California and considered quintessential Mexican Cuisine. Mix them all together and we simply have what I call "dinner". The leftovers?? We call them "lunch". My homework here is done.
Grilled Corn California Mexican Quinoa
Filled with healthy, energy providing ingredients, this dish works beautifully for lunch or a light dinner. Quintessential Mexican ingredients bring a lovely balance of flavors that only seem to be missing a tart margarita - which in actuality may not be Mexican at all. But that's for another homework assignment.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
3 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
1 sweet red pepper
1 Tbs oil (I use avocado oil)
1 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup (large handful) arugula
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
juice of 3 limes (more or less as desired depending on how juicy limes are. I like about 3 Tbs lime juice)
2 Tbs good quality olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
cilantro to garnish
Coconut Lime Cashew Crema (Click to see recipe)
Preheat grill on high. While grill is preheating, remove husks and silks from the corn. Set aside. Slice sides off of pepper and remove seeds. Rub oil over pepper slices and jalapeño.
Place corn and peppers directly on grill and reduce heat to medium/medium high. Turn corn and flip pepper pieces every few minutes until they have nice char marks and the peppers are soft and the corn is cooked, but not soft.
Remove from grill and allow to cool. Alternatively, use jarred red peppers if you don't want to grill your peppers.
Place cooled quinoa, tomatoes, beans, and onion into a bowl and toss gently to mix. Slice corn off of the cob and add to the bowl. Chop the pepper and add to the bowl. Chop and seed the jalapeño and add as much as desired depending on your spice tolerance. Stir gently again to combine.
Pour the lime juice and olive oil over the salad, then add the cilantro and arugula (or alternatively, serve the salad over a bed of oiled arugula), stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Salad is ready now, but I prefer mine a few hours later and chilled.
Serve in individual bowls and top with a drizzle of Coconut Lime Cashew Crema along with a garnish of lime wedges and additional cilantro.