By Robin Cherry
The dynamic colors of the Chevy Spark—bright, spicy Salsa and Jalapeño; tangy Lemonade; cool, grounded Black Granite; and Techno Pink—inspired our casual Tex-Mex picnic that’s perfect for an apartment stoop or downtown loft: black bean quesadillas served with salsa and jalapeño guacamole; freshly squeezed lemonade; and for dessert, Techno Pink cupcakes that get a Mexican kick from chipotle chile powder. To complete the festive atmosphere, pick up some brightly colored napkins, and perhaps a piñata.
Black Bean Quesadillas
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed
2 cups shredded cheese (a combination of Monterey Jack and Cheddar)
4 8-inch tortillas
Blend black beans and cheese in a bowl. (Partially crush the beans.) Spread 1/2 cup of filling on one half of a tortilla. Fold over and gently press. Grill until lightly browned on the outside (about two minutes in an indoor grill or panini maker).
Salsa (adapted from Rick Bayless’ Mexico—One Plate at a Time)
1 15-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
1 whole jalapeño
1 clove of garlic
1/4 c. cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
Salt, to taste
Roast jalapeño and garlic in a cast iron pan on top of your stove until sides are blackened, roughly 10 minutes for jalapeño and 15 minutes for garlic.
Puree jalapeño and garlic with fire-roasted tomatoes. Stir in salt to taste (and cilantro if desired).
2 ripe avocados
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. fresh lime juice
1-2 jalapeños, seeds removed, finely chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
2 T. cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
Cut avocados in half. Remove pit. Scoop out avocado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.
Using a fork, roughly mash the avocado. Add the jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper, and mash some more. Stir in tomato and serve immediately.
2 c. superfine sugar
1 c. hot water
2 c. fresh lemon juice (from roughly 8 lemons)
13 c. cold water
1 lemon, sliced
In a one-gallon container, place sugar and hot water, and stir until sugar dissolves. Add lemon juice and cold water. Stir until well mixed. Pour over ice. Squeeze lemon slices, and let float, on top.
Techno Pink Cupcakes
1 c. unsweetened cocoa
3/4 c. boiling water
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 T. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
3 t. chipotle powder
2 c. sugar
1 c. butter (2 sticks), room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
2 t. vanilla
1 c. buttermilk, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins (serving 24) with baking cups. In a small mixing bowl, mix boiling water and cocoa until the cocoa is dissolved. Set aside.
In another bowl, mix the rest of the dry ingredients together and set aside.
In an electric mixer, whip sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, incorporating after each addition. Add buttermilk and vanilla. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three additions, alternating with chocolate mixture, ending with flour mixture. Beat until combined. Scoop batter into prepared cupcake tins and bake for 13-15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Techno Pink Frosting
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
4 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
4 T. buttermilk
Chipotle chile powder (to sprinkle on top, if desired)
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Slowly beat in vanilla and buttermilk. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth. Add rose-colored food coloring until desired pink color is reached. Sprinkle with chipotle chile powder for an extra kick if desired.
The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.
Robin Cherry is a Hudson Valley-based travel, food and pop culture writer whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Afar, Islands and many other publications. She blogs at garlicescapes.com and is writing a book on the history of garlic that will be published in 2014. Follow her on Twitter @garlicescapes.