Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grilled, Cheesy Comfort

For a bunch of Jersey Italians, my family eats a lot of quesadillas. My sister and I would eat them as after-school snacks, cheddar cheese microwaved to greasy perfection between two rubbery tortillas. My mom still makes them for Saturday lunches sometimes, on a grill pan on the stove, topped with chunky salsa (a step up from the watery Old El Paso stuff we ate as kids). Quesadillas are comfort food to me, a sort of grilled cheese "lite," without so much bread and with the tomatoes on top, instead of inside.

So it's not surprising that I am a huge fan of Peter Berley's Black Bean and Zucchini Quesadillas. I've been making them ever since they appeared in his 2004 book, Fresh Food Fast. They make a fabulous meal, encompassing all the food groups in one dish and fulfilling all the requirements for a tasty dinner: gooey, salty, spicy and--something my childhood quesadillas did not offer--crunchy.

Here's the drill: you toss grated zucchini (water squeezed out) with black beans, grated Monterey Jack, chopped scallions and some jalapeno. You spread that mixture onto a flour tortilla, top it with another tortilla, and heat the quesadilla on a skillet, flipping so both sides get toasty. Top with salsa, sour cream, avocado slices, what have you. Tonight I threw together a quick plum tomato, cilantro, jalapeno and scallion salsa.

This is an ideal summer meal for when you've got more zucchini than you can handle and are sick of zucchini bread. It leaves you full but not stuffed, making it a perfect meal for the night before a long run, I've found. Whatever filling remains makes excellent leftovers. Make another quesadilla, eat it with tortilla chips, or just nosh straight out of the Tupperware. Comfort, indeed.--S

Black Bean & Zucchini Quesadillas

This recipe supposedly serves 4; I think you'll get at least 6 servings.

2 lbs zucchini, coarsely grated
1 1/2 t coarse salt, plus add'l to taste
2 (15-oz) cans black beans, drained
12 oz grated Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
2 scallions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, w/seeds, finely chopped
8 flour tortillas (8 in. in diameter)
Evoo for brushing the tortillas

1. In a colander, toss together the grated zucchini and salt with your hands. Squeeze the zucchini to remove a lot of its liquid.
2. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, beans, cheese, scallions & jalapeno.
3. Brush 4 of the tortillas w/oil on one side. Turn over the tortillas so the oiled side is on the bottom. Divide the bean mixture between the tortillas, spreading it to the edges. Top each w/a plain tortilla and brush the top w/oil.
4. Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Place a quesadilla in the pan and cook until the cheese melts and the tortillas are golden brown, about 3 min. per side. Repeat w/the remaining quesadillas. (Better to have two skillets going at once). Serve w/salsa.

Recipe courtesy of Fresh Food Fast

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