Grilled Corn with Cilantro Pesto and Cotija Cheese

Unlike the classic Italian pesto, this piquant Mexican version with cilantro and pumpkin seeds creates a powerful flavor that’s fantastic on corn as well as fish or chicken. Instead of serving the corn on the cob, you can cut the kernels off, sauté them, and then stir in the pesto for a great corn salad. Feel free to substitute Parmesan cheese if you don’t have cotija, and use any leftover pumpkin seeds as snack food with a cocktail while the corn is grilling. The seeds stay fresh for a week if stored tightly covered.

Serves 8

1/4 cup green shelled pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 cups fresh cilantro, washed and large stems removed
1/2 cup grated cotija cheese, plus more for sprinkling (optional)
8 ears of fresh corn

1. Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin seeds, 1 tablespoon of the canola oil, the chili powder, and salt. Mix well. Spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly on a baking sheet and place on the middle rack of the oven. Stir the seeds every few minutes until they are golden brown and crackling, about 10 minutes. When the seeds are done, transfer to another flat pan to cool so they don’t overcook on the hot pan.

3. To prepare the pesto, in a food processor, combine the garlic, cilantro, the remaining 3/4 cup canola oil, the roasted pumpkin seeds, and the cotija. Puree until evenly mixed but slightly chunky. Add salt, if desired. Set aside. (The pesto can be covered tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

4. To prepare the corn, preheat a grill to high.

5. Husk the corn and place it on the grill. Leave the grill open and turn the corn every 2 minutes to evenly roast it all around, roughly 10 minutes. Char marks will let you know it’s perfectly done. Use tongs to take the corn off the grill and place it on a platter.

6. Using a pastry brush or butter knife, liberally slather the pesto over each ear of corn. Roll the corn around to completely cover it with pesto. Sprinkle with a little more cotija, if desired. Serve immediately.

Jeffrey Saad Global Kitchen cookbookExcerpted from Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen by Jeffrey Saad. Copyright © 2012 by Jeffrey Saad. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.

Next elegant barbecue idea: Grilled Spicy Watermelon.