Zucchini and Summer Squash Quesadillas

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA/STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

 SERVES 4

Zucchini blossoms are a common quesadilla filling when they’re in season, but I prefer to use zucchini and summer squash seasoned with plenty of oregano and garlic. In the summer, I char the poblano chile, zucchini and tomatillos that form the base of the salsa on the grill, but blackening them under the broiler would also work.

For the Salsa:
1  small zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 3–4 equal strips 1 teaspoon olive oil
8 tomatillos
1 medium poblano chile  
Half of a small red onion, finely diced
1⁄3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

For the quesadillas:
2 medium-large zucchini and 1 large summer squash, chopped into half moons
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
2½ tablespoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
6 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely diced
18 ounces grated sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas

First, prepare the salsa. Light a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to medium-high. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil on both sides, then transfer zucchini, poblano and tomatillos to the grill. Grill for 10–15 minutes, attentively turning so as to blacken all sides, until everything is well-charred. Transfer to a cutting board.

Allow the poblano to cool, then peel (wear gloves, or wash your hands well afterward!) and finely chop. Finely chop the zucchini. In a small mixing bowl, add the poblano, zucchini, tomatillos, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt. With a spoon, gently mash the mixture until the tomatillos have broken down and you are left with a chunky salsa. Set aside until ready to use.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add the zucchini and summer squash, oregano, garlic and salt, and cook until lightly browned and just soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe the inside of the skillet clean and reserve for later use. 

Assemble the quesadillas. (You will probably have to do this in batches, preparing 1 while another is cooking). Place 1 tortilla down on a cutting board, then add a generous amount of cheese, followed by an even layer of the zucchini and squash mixture, and top with another tortilla. Drizzle the teaspoon of canola oil onto a folded paper towel, and use it to brush the bottom of the skillet evenly. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat, and add the quesadilla. Cook until well-browned, flipping once, about 2–3 minutes a side.

Cut each quesadilla into quarters, and serve on plates with a ramekin or small bowl of salsa on the side, to be spooned over as desired. 

LUKE PYENSON is a food and travel writer, recipe developer, food stylist and photographer based in New York City. You can see examples of his work at www.lukepyenson.com.