Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spicy spin on an old favorite

What should you do when life gives you a surplus of jalapeños?  Make some pesto!  What, you thought pesto was just for the Genovese?  Well think again!  It's time to expand your pesto horizons.

This recipe works great on a warm corn tortilla, with some grilled meat and chopped tomatoes.  It also works as a nice seasoning for ground meat, in rice, or even to spice up your grandma's chicken soup.  Plug in your food processor and give it a whirl!

Charred Garlic-Jalapeño Pesto with Queso Fresco (printable version)
Adapted from Grace Parisi's "Get Saucy"
(makes about 1 cup)

Note: If you can't find queso fresco, you can use farmer's cheese or feta as a substitute.

5 large green jalapeños
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 scallions, trimmed of root end
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco
salt to taste

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot.  Rub the peppers with a small amount of the oil and add them to the skillet with the garlic and scallions and cook until softened and charred all over (about 15 minutes for the garlic and jalapeños and 5 minutes for the scallions).  Transfer the jalapeños to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool.  Peel and seed the jalapeños and peel the garlic.

Transfer the jalapeños, garlic, and scallions to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  With machine running, add the rest of the oil.  Add the cilantro and queso fresco and pulse until just combined.  Season with salt.  This will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days.