Perhaps one of the tastiest holidays out there,Cinco de Mayo,reminds us it’s time to get ready for the bounty of spring and summer. Officially the date commemorates the Battle of Puebla,a Mexican militia victory over French troops in 1862. Who knew it would inspire such delicious foods 150 years later?
Enjoying Cotija cheese is a great way to commemorate the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Named for the town of Cotija,Michoacan in southwestern Mexico,this traditional Hispanic cheese is sometimes known as the “Parmesan of Mexico.”It is made by adding bacterial cultures to hot milk to create small,fine curds. Lots of salt is added and pressure applied to the curd to remove moisture and make a firm,drier cheese. Cotija is often used to add saltiness (it’s typically 2-3 times saltier than other cheeses) and flavor to dishes,especially freshly grilled corn,enchiladas and quesadillas. The cheese makes a fine garnish for soups,salads and pastas that need an extra bit of tang or sharpness to contrast the sweet and earthy flavors of many fruits and vegetables,like peppers and tomatillos.
Tomatillos can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. Check out the latest Produce Report for a great recipe for fresh organic Tomatillo Salsa. These precious juicy fruits are relatives to the gooseberry and tomato. They pair nicely with mild cheeses like farmer style,queso fresco or feta. Protected in a paper-like skin,tomatillos have a pleasantly acidic,sweet flavor and edible skin and seeds. They are tasty additions to salads,sauces and soups.
Even if it’s a bit chilly this Cinco de Mayo,try enjoying Cotija in the spirit of celebration:
Warmed Green Salad with Cotija and Peppers
(inspired by Chef Reena Kawal of www.food.com)
1 bunch spinach or chard (or a 12 oz package pre-washed)
1 white onion,diced
1 red pepper,diced
1 yellow pepper,diced
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup Cotija cheese,crumbled
Clean spinach and trim stems. Crumble Cotija cheese and set aside. Dice onions and peppers. Heat large pot over low and add butter to melt. Add onions to butter,sautee onions on medium-low heat for several minutes until soft. Add peppers and cook for a few minutes until peppers are soft around the edges but still crispy. Just prior to serving:Add spinach to the onion/pepper/butter sauce and swirl around the pan to sautee the greens very quickly. The spinach should still be fluffy,with buttery caramelized onions and peppers. Sprinkle with Cotija cheese just before serving. Serve immediately. Note:You can sautee the onions and peppers in butter ahead of time and reheat to add spinach prior to serving. Add garbanzo beans for extra protein.