Sure, it’s only been one month since I wrote “I don’t find summer squash naturally loveable. Its flavor is not robust—fairly watery when fresh, slippery when cooked, and even when you do succeed in browning or crisping it, this textural triumph is short-lived.” But I never meant that I avoid it. Just because it may not be the most popular vegetable at the party doesn’t mean that it cannot flourish under the right conditions (salt, pepper, acidity, heat, herbs, and cheese — please). Conveniently, I almost always have these conditions in stock.
Lately, my favorite approach has been to cook it with garlic in it olive oil for about 15 minutes, at which point it becomes jammy — fully tender with concentrated flavors and excellent seasoning. Once you have a skillet of this, zucchini is your oyster. Maybe you fold it into an omelet with goat cheese and herbs? Maybe you mix it with big pasta, parmesan, basil leaves, and lemon? But last week, I mixed it with grated Monterey jack cheese and cooked it between two white corn tortillas until they were browned and crisp and it turns out, this might be my favorite use of it yet.
I had planned to finish them with a punchy, herby sauce with jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, salt, and maybe lime but then I decided, well, I didn’t want to do that. I’m sure the contrast would be lovely. Quesadillas risk being a little one-note without some acidity, you know? But the reality is that when you have a plate of warm, bronzed quesadillas with messy lacy brown edges that have formed when the melted cheese lands on and crisps in the pan ready to be eaten and the mouths nearby to happily volunteer for this service, nobody wants to make a sauce. So instead, they were scattered with jalapeño, cilantro, avocado, and lime juice and devoured before they were getting cold, always a triumph. I hope you don’t wait to get to them, either.
This just in: Hey, have you ever wondered what A Work Week In The Life Of Smitten Kitchen is like? Like, behind the scenes? This just went up online (I think it will be in Sunday’s paper), and I’d be remiss not to share it in the place where it all began.
One year ago: Minimalist Barbecue Sauce
Two years ago: German Chocolate Cake + A Wedding Cake
Three years ago: Blackberry Cheesecake Galette and Eggplant with Yogurt and Tomato Relish
Four years ago: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles with Cucumber
Five years ago: Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde and Bourbon Slush Punch
Six years ago: Mama Canales-Garcia’s Avocado-Shrimp Salsa
Seven years ago: Peach Pie
Eight years ago: Charred Corn Tacos with Zucchini-Radish Slaw
Nine years ago: Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin and Summer Succotash with Bacon and Croutons
Ten years ago: Best Birthday Cake and Arugula, Potato and Green Bean Salad
Eleven years ago: Sauteed Radishes with Sugar Snaps and Dill and Nectarine, Mascarpone, and Gingersnap Tart
Twelve years ago: Red Pepper Soup and Cherry Clafoutis
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Cauliflower and Tomato Masala with Peas
1.5 Years Ago: Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese andLuxe Butterscotch Pudding
2.5 Years Ago: Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
3.5 Years Ago: Broccoli Melts and White Russian
4.5 Years Ago: Perfect Corn Muffins and Spaghetti Pangrattato with Fried Eggs
We stuff a lot of zucchini into 6 6-inch quesadillas here. For my family, it serves us 4, but we always eat it with salad (see the lazy slaw at the end here) and sometimes another vegetable (this would be great). It might be safer to scale it up for robust appetites. I kept the filling mild with Aleppo pepper so that my kids would eat it, but for adults, I’d definitely mince a hot pepper and cook it into the filling along with the garlic.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying quesadillas
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon mild (aleppo) or hotter red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 pounds zucchini or other slim summer squash, halved and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- 1 lime, halved
- 6 ounces grated monterey jack cheese
- 12 6-inch corn tortillas
- Sliced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, additional lime, and thinly sliced jalapeno to finish
Heat a large skillet over medium. Once hot, add oil. Once oil is hot, add garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden at the edges, about 1 minute. Add zucchini, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and red pepper flakes and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, turning over occasionally, until zucchini becomes soft and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat slightly and cook 7 to 10 minutes more, at which point the zucchini will be jammy and very tender. Taste for seasoning — I needed about 1/2 teaspoon more salt here. Add the juice of half your lime and scrape mixture into a wide bowl. Let cool slightly while you prepare any toppings or grate the cheese you probably haven’t yet, if you’re me.
Add cheese to zucchini mixture and mix. Lay out 6 of your tortillas and divide the filling between them, going all the way to the edges. Place remaining 6 tortillas on top.
While you could use your large skillet again, I prefer a nonstick for these quesadillas. Heat the skillet of your choice over medium and add a couple teaspoons of oil. Transfer your assembled quesadillas to the skillet and cook until deeply golden and crisp underneath, letting whatever cheese seeps out cook and crisp in the pan. Flip quesadilla(s) and repeat on second side. Try to take all of the lacy brown cheese with you when you remove your finished quesadillas from the pan. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lime half over them.
Serve halved or in wedges with additional lime wedges, avocado, cilantro, and jalapeno.
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