Friday, 4 January 2008

Summer salsa and quesadillas

I can never have too much green – unless I am cutting up green chillis! Not too much chilli for me, please. I don't want the burn to override every other flavour and I even dislike chopping them after one too many occasions when I have rubbed my eyes with chilli fingers. But occasionally it seems worthwhile. This week I was pleasantly surprised when I made a peach and pineapple salsa. The sweet fruit and spicy chilli were perfect partners. Plus, the salsa looked and tasted like summer.

I served the salsa with Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas, and vibrant red salad. The first two recipes were adapted from the Complete Vegetarian Barbecue Book by Susan Geiskopf-Hadler. Unfortunately, I don’t have a barbecue. I know a few carnivores who think vegetarians have no need for a barbecue but as Jeanne showed with her Waiter There's Something in My Meatless BBQ list, there are so many good vego recipes for the bbq. (But I don’t know if I could invite the family around for a vegetarian bbq.) I did wonder if my quesadilla experience might have been easier if I could just toss them on the bbq. Maybe one day...

I loved the mushroom quesadillas. They were absolutely delicious but making them was a bit of a headache. However, they gave me an opportunity to use the new ridged pan that I got for Christmas from my sister, Susie. I used corn tortillas that I found in the supermarket and they were recalcitrant wee beasts – they kept curling up when I placed quesadillas on the frypan before I flipped them, they cracked when I tried to fold them in half and they were hard to flip over. I can’t blame it all on the corn tortillas – flour tortillas might have acted the same – and usually I do quesadillas under the grill. More relationship building is needed between me and my new pan – and it will happen!

The other recipe was inspired by another Christmas present – Henderson’s Wholefood Cookbook – from Helena, my sister in law in Scotland. The subtitle is ‘revealed at last – secrets of Edinburgh’s celebrated Salad Table Restaurant’. It is a great wee book. When I lived in Edinburgh I loved the wholesome yumminess of Hendersons vegetarian café, takeaway and restaurant, so it is exciting to have their cookbook. They have a recipe for Beetroot and Mustard Dressing that gave some inspiration for my third salad.

Finally, it was not only a delicious meal, that even got the thumbs up from E (a.k.a. the Grim Eater!) despite some discussion on what is a salsa. (According to Wikipedia, salsa is Italian or Spanish for sauce and usually refers to a Mexican spicy sauce, which can be also used as a dip. But I think this salsa is more like a salad. Hmmm!) It also made for great leftovers. The quesadillas were great cold for lunch with some salad the next day, and I think the mushrooms tasted even better for sitting overnight. We also finished off the salads for dinner the following night with some pasta and tomato pasta sauce, grated cheese, and a simple salad of tomato, cucumber, red capsicum, lemon juice and basil. So many fresh easy salads - I felt like I was at Hendersons helping myself from their salad bar!

Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas
(adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Barbecue Book)
Serves 3 (with salad for a main meal)

1 medium onion, sliced
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (125ml) vegetable stock
225g button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 medium chilli, seeded and finely chopped (I used ½ tsp mild paprika)
1 tbsp dry sherry (I used medium dry)
¾ cup parsley, chopped
6 medium corn tortillas
1 cup grated cheese (I used mix of tilba vintage and parmesan)

Place onion and salt in large frypan with a little of the stock and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms, chilli (or paprika), cumin and remaining stock. Stir and then place lid on frypan. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. (I checked midway through and found it took me a little less than 10 minutes). If there is any liquid left, the recipe says to cook til dry. Remove from heat and stir in sherry and parsley.

Heat barbecue or frypan to medium high (I did mine on high). Now this is where I diverged from the recipe. Presumably on the barbecue there is lots of room to put all the tortillas out but I had to do mine a few at a time, which was not good for my patience.

Before putting on barbecue/frypan, put a little cheese, some mushrooms and then a little more cheese. (If, like me, you don’t read the recipe, a layer of cheese and a layer of mushroom will work anyway). Fold tortilla in half and place on bbq for about 8 minutes, turning once during that period. Again it didn’t work for me – I timed it and it took about 8 minutes on one side (on high heat) and 5 minutes after I flipped it (maybe a bit too long – they were quite crunchy). I also had problems with tortillas curling up at the edges and at one stage put a glass jar on them to hold them down. And I had problems flipping them too because I didn’t fold over some quesadillas, but did as circles which were too big to flip. Yes, I have much to learn. But they tasted so good, I will be doing it again - maybe it will get easier. Serve with salsa and salad (see below)

Peach and Pineapple Salsa
(adapted from The Complete Vegetarian Barbecue Book)
Serves 4

2 peaches*, diced
¼ fresh pineapple**, skinned and diced
½ green capsicum, diced
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 largish green chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp red wine vinegar
small handful of basil, chopped

*The recipe says to peel the peach but I couldn't bear to mutilate such lovely nutritious skin.
**I think you could probably use drained tinned unsweetened pineapple if you don’t have fresh.

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Leave at room temperature for an hour before serving to allow flavours to blend. This can be made the day before and kept in the fridge.

Beet red saladServes 4

1 beetroot, peeled and grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 tomato, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Seasoning, to taste

Place vegetables in a salad bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and mustard. Pour dressing in with the vegetables and toss to mix well. Season as required. Can be made the previous night and kept in the fridge.

On the stereo:Shamal: Gong


  1. Hi Johanna--

    Happy New Year! (What's really funny is that it's still Jan. 3rd here, already Friday the 4th there).

    I love quesadillas in general, but the salsa you mention sounds heavenly (and more so, since it's reminding me of summer during these awful snowy months over here--can't wait till summer in Canada so I can try it!!).

    I also must say that the haggis you mentioned in the previous post sounds absolutely delicious to me. I had haggis many, many years ago and liked it then, but never tried to make it. Now that I no longer eat meat, this is the perfect recipe. Thanks!

  2. I love mushroom quesadillas! The couple of times that I have used corn tortillas I have had the same problem with brittleness. I think the white flour ones stay foldable a little longer though they eventually crisp up in the pan too. I think I prefer the more wholesome taste and texture of the corn ones. :-/

  3. thanks Ricki - happy new year - the salsa is indeed heavenly - I always miss peaches in winter so I understand the yearning. But a bit of snow would be nice instead of the hot days that are killing my plants and making the nights uncomfortable (maybe you could say this of snow too)!!! Hope you get to try the haggis - it's a good recipe

    thanks Cindy - I love quesadillas but haven't done them with mushroom before - but I am now sold on them!

  4. Lovely post. I'm a big fan of beets and would love to make the red salad at some point.

  5. thanks Lisa - I love beets too - they are so versatile and are fantastic grated in a salad


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