Back in the day, when Dad fired up the grill, you knew a big chunk of protein was going to land on your dinner plate in some form or another. Hamburgers, steak and chicken were the usual suspects at my house. I feel certain no vegetables ever hit the grill rack at my house when I was growing up.
Not true for my family, though. Some of my favorite foods to grill are vegetables. Whether they’re a side dish for chicken or steak, or the star of the show, I seldom grill without tossing some kind of vegetable on the rack.
It’s so easy to do and a great excuse to clean out your refrigerator’s vegetable bin, as almost any vegetable can be grilled. Eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, corn, even green beans can be successfully grilled, making it that much easier to buy everything that looks good at the farmers market because you know you can always use it. Thank goodness, because I can’t resist buying everything that looks good at the market.
So what to do with all these grilled veggies? Really, the better question is: What can’t you do? Sandwiches, burgers, bruschetta and pizza all benefit from a topping of grilled vegetables. Pasta is another perfect partner. Just toss a couple of generous handfuls of the chopped grilled vegetables with olive oil, a little garlic and hot whole-wheat penne for a memorable meal or side dish.
Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas made an appearance at my family’s dinner table this week. I had just a little of a variety of vegetables on hand, so it seemed like a good idea to combine them on the grill and put them into a flour tortilla with a bit of cheese. Then I put the whole thing back on the grill to cook until the cheese was nicely melted. I served it with an easy, creamy guacamole, with just the right amount of heat from a jalapeño I’d grilled along with other vegetables.
Of course, even though school is out, summer can still be a busy time, with baseball games, swim team practice or some other kid-oriented activity, and grilling isn’t in the cards every night of the week. If you make sure to grill extra vegetables on the weekend, though, or whenever you’re cooking dinner on the grill, you’ll always have them on hand, making this quesadilla easy to prepare on the stovetop in less than 15 minutes.
Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas with Creamy Charred Jalapeño Guacamole
Makes 6 quesadillas.
Note: Tossing extra veggies on the rack whenever you’re grilling would make this dish a snap to put together any night of the week. Just cut the leftover vegetables into bite-size pieces and proceed with the recipe as directed, using the stovetop method. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 poblano chile
• 1 red bell pepper
• 1 jalapeño
• 2 ears corn, silk removed but husks left on, soaked in cold water at least 10 minutes
• 2 medium zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise
• 1 red onion, sliced into 1/3-in. rounds
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
• 1 avocado
• 1/2 c. light sour cream
• 1/4 c. finely chopped cilantro
• 1 tbsp. lime juice
• 6 (8-in.) whole-wheat flour tortillas
• 1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Preparing the grill: On a gas grill, heat only one side on high, leaving the other side off and available for indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, pile the charcoal on only one side of the grill.
Lay the poblano, red pepper and jalapeño on the rack on the direct heat side of the grill and roast, turning occasionally with tongs, until skins are blackened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, then cover and let steam 10 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers (don’t worry if a little of the charred skin remains). Finely mince the jalapeño and reserve. Cut the poblano and red pepper into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl.
Place the corn on the direct heat side of the grill, close the grill hood, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until steamed through and hot but still crisp (test by carefully piercing with a knife). Let cool and cut kernels off the grill and place in bowl with the peppers.
Brush both sides of the zucchini and the red onion rounds with the olive oil. Place on the rack on the direct heat side of the grill and cook until slightly charred on all sides and just beginning to soften, about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove and cut into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the bowl with the peppers and corn and season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside.
Add the avocado and sour cream to a medium bowl and mash with a fork or potato masher until well combined and just slightly chunky. Stir in the reserved minced jalapeño, lime juice and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and chill until ready to use.
To make the quesadillas: Place 2 tablespoons of the cheese on one half of each tortilla. Add 1/3 cup of the grilled vegetables and top with another 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Fold the other side of the tortilla over to enclose.
Cook the quesadillas on the indirect heat side of the grill, turning once, until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is slightly crisped, about 3 minutes per side. (If cooking quesadilla on the stove, heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the quesadillas until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes per side.) Cut into wedges and serve with the guacamole.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 390 Fat 21 g Sodium 700 mg
Carbohydrates 41 g Saturated fat 9 g Total sugars 6 g
Protein 15 g Cholesterol 35 mg Dietary fiber 8 g
Exchanges per serving: 3 starch, 1 high-fat protein, 2½ fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.