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Calabacitas Rellenas With Homemade Queso Blanco

This hearty summer dish makes for a delightful meatless supper.

September 16, 2019

You can also toss in pre-cooked taco meat to add some additional protein or serve it as a side dish—I recommend pairing it with thinly sliced grilled tri-tip or flank steak.

Calabacitas Rellenas

Serves 6 to 8

4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked

12 cherry, grape, or pear tomatoes, halved

2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded, and minced (I use 1 red and 1 green)

1 bell pepper, minced

1 red onion, dice

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 zucchini squash

1 cup (or more to taste) crumbled homemade queso blanco (see recipe below) or store-bought Oaxacan cheese, shredded

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Over a bowl, use a sharp knife to scrape the corn kernels from the cob with a downward motion. Using the back of a spoon with downward strokes, scrape the corn “milk” from the cob. Add the tomato halves, minced jalapeño and bell peppers, onion, cilantro, garlic, and oil and toss.

Halve the squash lengthwise and use a melon baller or teaspoon to hollow out the seeded pulp so that the squash “boats” are slightly more than 1/4-inch thick all around. Place these in a lightly greased baking dish.

Pour the vegetable mixture onto a cookie sheet and spread out as evenly as possible. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring and tossing every few minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned, with char spots. Remove the vegetables from the oven, turn off the broiler, and set the oven to bake at 400° F.

Fill the squash boats with the vegetable mixture, sprinkle with the cheese, and season with salt and black pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cheese melts and starts to bubble. Serve hot.

Homemade Queso Blanco

The key to cheese making is to find the purest form of milk possible, one that has not been ultra-pasteurized, since the high-heat treatment of the milk will prevent curds from forming. Raw milk is the best option; otherwise, check out local farmers markets and health food stores for whole milk that is as unadulterated as possible (Even organic milks can be ultra-pasteurized, so read the label first).

Don’t fret about using non-pasteurized milk for this recipe: As pasteurization occurs when milk is at 161° F or above for a minimum of 15 seconds, you will be pasteurizing your own product as you make this cheese.

Yield: About a pound

1 gallon organic whole milk (raw is best)

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the milk, salt, and zest in a 5-quart stockpot over medium-high heat. Use a thermometer to determine when the liquid reaches 185° F, then reduce the heat to low. Add the lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring gently until the milk curdles. Remove from the heat and drain the curds in a colander lined with a fine cheesecloth over a large bowl to catch the whey. Let the curds drain at room temperature for 2 hours, emptying the whey as necessary. Fold the cheesecloth over the top of the colander, place a weighted plate on it, and let it continue to drain in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, remove from the refrigerator. Tightly wrap the cheese in plastic wrap, store in the refrigerator, and use within a week. Save the whey, which you can freeze and use for baking high-protein bread or add to smoothies to provide more minerals, protein, and vitamins.

Find this and more than 175 other organic wild game, seafood, foraged foods, and garden fare recipes in The Field to Table Cookbook by Susan L. Ebert (Welcome Books, 2016), available in the COWGIRL magazine store at store.cowgirlmagazine.com.

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