It’s the middle of summer and zucchini is ever-present. As I do every summer, I’m scrambling to figure out a new way to use it. I’ll be honest, most summer squashes and the like (yeah I mean you, eggplant, summer squash and zucchini) need to be cooked a certain way for me to like them. If they aren’t, they turned into a mushy mash that I spread around my plate to make it look like I’ve eaten them. (No I’m not 5, but 5-year-olds are pretty sneaky to come up with this technique.)
But again it’s summer, and zucchini are overflowing. Lucky for me I got a lovely grill pan this spring. FYI, weddings are a special moment and a great celebration of love and such (and mine was), but they are also a great way to get all kinds a new kitchen gadgets, which is awesome for me. My husband is cool with it, too, because he gets to sample all my creations. (My biggest mistake was carrot soup, which had just too many, well, carrots. I did get to use my new hand blender though.)
Wait, I was talking about the plethora of zucchini in summer, not my cool new kitchen gadgets. My grill pan is the perfect way to cook zucchini (and eggplant and summer squash). It cooks it quickly, so the zucchini doesn’t get too mushy. It chars and caramelizes the zucchini, adding to the texture and flavor. (You could use a real grill, which I have, but then you have to drag it out 10 feet from the apartment, light the charcoal, wait 20 minutes for the coal, and then you can use it. But what do you do with the leftover coals? Okay, maybe you don’t live in an apartment and you have a gas grill and a beautiful porch; still, a grill pan saves you from standing in the 102-degree heat and humidity. )
My grilled zucchini this summer has made it into pasta, pizza, enchiladas and quesadillas. This particular post is about the quesadillas. They are kept simple with only mushrooms, grilled zucchini and cheese. You could even eliminate the mushrooms, but why would you want to do that? These quesadillas could easily be a panini, but I had extra tortillas. With your next batch of zucchini, pull out the grill pan (or grill) and make these nice little quesadillas. (My next zucchini will be shredded into bread.)
Grilled Zucchini and Mushroom Quesadillas2 zucchinis, sliced 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 cloves garlic, grated the zest of 1 lemon* 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes salt and pepper, to taste 1 pint of mushrooms, sliced 1-2 cups of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded** 12 corn tortillas
Slice your zucchini horizontally into long strips (you can also do coins, but long strips are easily to work with on the grill when turning). In a large bowl, add the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk it all together. Add your zucchini slices and coat them in the dressing. Set the bowl aside, at least 5-10 minutes.
Heat a medium saute pan to medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Slice your mushrooms and toss them in the pan. Saute the mushrooms until all their juices are released and they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt, remove from heat and set aside.
While sauteing, break out your grill pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. When hot, add the zucchini slices. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes. Do not overcrowd the grill pan. This will decrease the heat of the pan and cause mushy zucchini that won’t char properly. Grill the zucchini in batches and remove them to a plate or cutting board as they finish.
Once all the zucchini is cooked, turn the grill pan down a notch (between medium and medium-high). Construct your quesadillas. On a tortilla sprinkle a thin layer of cheese, then top with mushrooms and zucchini (not too many or it will be hard to flip), and finally add another layer of cheese and another tortilla (the cheese acts as a glue between the vegetables and tortillas). Place your tortillas on the grill pan and grill each side for 3-4 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the tortilla has grill marks.
Remove from heat and contiue the process with the rest of the ingredients. You can store the quesadillas in a 200-degree oven until all your tortillas are complete. Serve the quesadillas warm alongside a nice simple salad (mine was spring greens, yellow cherry tomatoes and lemon dressing).
*You can use the juice in a salad dressing to accompany the quesadillas as I did. I whisked together the lemon juice with salt and pepper and then slowly whisked in olive oil (maybe 3 tablespoons).
**You could also use mozzarella or any other good melting cheese with a mild flavor.