Earlier this summer, Laura and I planted vegetables and seeds in a few different gardens in our back yard. I think there are five or six areas (distinct gardens) overall. Initially, we decided to use only four gardens because the others were out near the grass, where voles have been known to live. The last thing I wanted was to have my wonderfully growing plants eaten by these little monsters.
Over a few weeks, we decided that we should plant some squash and zucchini seeds in the empty garden areas just to see what would happen. I mean, if the roots of these plants get eaten, so be it. The seeds would only cost a few dollars and, hey, you never know. We may get lucky.
Well, as it turns out, the voles never really cared much about our precious vegetables. What was once tiny little zucchini and squash plants turned into big, huge bushes that give us about three large pieces of fruit per day. Needless to say, we’re inundated with squash right about now.
Because of this, I’m looking for recipes that call for this type of ingredient. Actually, I’m looking for recipes that call for everything that we’re growing – this one just happens to be at the forefront of my mind. Luckily, I’ve got a vegetarian cookbook that holds over 700 recipes – and many of them include zucchini.
I found some really easy instructions for a zucchini quesadilla in the awesome America’s Test Kitchen cookbook called The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. It only takes a few minutes to put together and it’s full of great flavor and texture. And the best part is that it uses a fair amount of zucchini.
I think the best part of these quesadillas, besides the zucchini, is the use of queso fresco cheese. If you’ve never tried this particular type of cheese before, I encourage you to do so. I’m not sure how I can describe it other than a mix between feta and mozzarella. It’s soft and crumbly and it has a nice salty bite. Really, it works well with a lot of things, all the way from sandwiches to salads.
The recipe calls for garlic and cumin to flavor the zucchini. This is good because zucchini by itself doesn’t taste like much. It’s primarily there for texture. These two enhancers, combined with some Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeno peppers rounds this dish out to make it the perfect lunch or dinner.
Makes: 4 Quesadillas
Regular Olive Oil
1 Large Zucchini, Sliced Widthwise and Then Quartered
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Garlic, Minced
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
4 8-9 Inch Flour Tortillas
4 Ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, Shredded
2 Ounces Queso Fresco Cheese
1 Tablespoon Jarred Jalapenos, Minced
I want to give you a word of warning regarding the jalapeno peppers used in this recipe. Mince them. The instructions call for mincing these peppers and you should probably follow the instructions. Last night, I thought I was some sort of hero and placed about five slices of pepper on each quesadilla and cooked them up. When it came time to eat, well, let’s just say – there were some interesting bites. Some hot ones.
I’ve eaten hot pepper before and I’ve concluded that they’re best minced and cooked. Doing this takes some of the heat out of them and yet keeps the flavor. In this case, since these peppers are jarred, I think a simple mincing would be fine.
Prep the Ingredients
I wanted to take a few photos of the ingredients used in this recipe. I’m not sure how well the “widthwise” instruction is understood.
This is what I meant by slicing the zucchini up and then cutting it further into quarters:
And this is just the two different types of cheeses used:
Be sure to take care of this before you decide to start cooking. Remember, it’s a fast recipe, so there’s no time to spare.
Cook the Zucchini
Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s to temperature, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Then, toss in the zucchini and let cook for about 10 minutes until it’s slightly browned. Stir periodically during this time.
After that, add the salt, pepper, garlic and cumin to the pan and cook for another minute. Stir well and then transfer the contents into a bowl. Remove the skillet from heat.
Arrange all 4 quesadillas on a large flat surface, such as a counter top. Then, divide the zucchini mixture among them. Be sure to place the zucchini only on one side of the tortillas, meaning, each tortilla should have zucchini on only half of its surface area.
After that, do the same with both types of cheeses and the jalapeno peppers. When finished, fold the tortillas over so each one looks like a half moon. Press to flatten, keeping sure that none of the ingredients fall out.
Cook the Quesadillas
If the skillet you used earlier is clean, go ahead and warm that back up over medium heat and add about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. If the pan is dirty, you can either wipe it out with a paper towel or use a new pan. Since mine was fairly clean, I just used the same pan.
Cook each quesadilla separately. Put one in the pan and let cook for just a minute or two. You can check the brownness of the bottom side by lifting it slightly with a fork. When it turns medium brown, go ahead and carefully flip it over. Because of the cooking, the bottom side should be firm. Continue to cook the other side for the same amount of time and when finished, remove it from the pan and continue on with the remaining quesadillas.
The Final Dish
I told you this was fast. The cooking part of this recipe isn’t very challenging, but the flavors are complex and worthwhile. To serve, you can cut each quesadilla in half or you can leave that up to the person who’s eating it. Enjoy!
If you’d like to check out some other great looking zucchini quesadilla recipes, take a look at these posts:
Zucchini and Corn Quesadillas Recipe | Vegetarian Times
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