Thursday, August 03, 2006

It IS Easy Being Green

When cooking for one, whether this is your standard routine or an occasional occurrence, how often do you just pop open a can of soup or whip up a quick omelet? Not that I don’t love an omelet or eat my share of soup, but when I’m alone I find it lifts my spirits to putter around in the kitchen and create something wonderful just for me. I can listen to my CDs (It’s usually Tori Amos; last night it was Common) instead of watching Mike’s beloved Sports Center or our compromise, Wheel of Fortune (there’s not a lot on at that time of night, people). I can take my time and float around our tiny kitchen without stepping on my husband’s feet, or knocking heads with him over the stove, which has been known to happen—sometimes it’s like a finely choreographed urban ballet in there with clanging pots and twirling utensils. And best of all, I don’t have to share the rest of my opened bottle of Côtes-Du-Rhône with a single soul.

Mike has been working on a project in Toronto for the past 10 days. I did fly in to spend the weekend with him and explore the city, but now I’m home again, and the kitchen is starting to get a little lonely. It can be tough to give it my all when there’s no one around to ooh and aah over my culinary creations (or help with the chopping), so I came up with an easy dinner that did not require much time spent leaning over my hot electric stove, but still gave me a chance to unwind and experiment with a new ingredient (and finish that bottle of wine).

I had picked up some adorable chayote squash in the supermarket the day before and had been flipping through magazines for ideas about what to do with it. Finally inspiration came upon me out of the blue—and it was green. I think my Green Quesadillas are unique, but it’s still the same simple formula: Press some meat, veggies and cheese between two tortillas and cook until hot and melting. I’m also relying on the green gimmick here, but why not?

Some gorgeous green things. The chopped squash looks like a granny smith apple, and has a similar texture, too.

Here's the sauteed chayote squash with some green onions--sweetly carmelized, but still quite firm.

If you're only hungry for half a quesadilla, load it up like this and fold the other side over.

I could always make a salsa out of fresh tomatillos, but short cuts are nice on nights like this.

Lovely Green Quesadillas, just for me.

Green Quesadillas
Serves 1 (But is nice enough to multiply and share with friends)
You don't want to over-stuff these or they won't stay together, but I called for more filling than you might need in case you can't eat just one.

1 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 chayote squash or zucchini, chopped into small pieces
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
3-4 green onions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
2 spinach tortillas
¼ to ½ c. poached or grilled chicken breast, coarsely chopped into small pieces
½ avocado, chopped into small pieces and tossed with lime and garlic salt, if desired
½-¾ c. grated cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar. Jack, mozzarella or any easy-melting cheese will work.)
¼ c. chopped cilantro
Sour cream, for serving
Salsa verde, for serving

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and browned. I took mine to the point of almost blackened, as chayote is a firmer squash and I like a little char. The chayote takes a good 10 minutes to cook, but the zucchini will go more quickly. Add the green onions and cook for 1 minute more. Remove to a bowl.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and coat your skillet with nonstick spray. Add a tortilla and top with some chicken, squash mixture, avocado, the cheese and some cilantro. Cover with another tortilla. Use a spatula to check the bottom of the quesadilla often. Because the tortilla is green, you won’t see much browning, but you’ll know it is time to flip when the edges of the tortilla become firm and crisp and the cheese starts melting on the inside, 3-5 minutes. Carefully flip the quesadilla and cook on the opposite side for a couple more minutes. Cooking times will vary, so you be the judge. An alternative method that I used which makes flipping easier is to cover half the tortilla with filling and fold over the other half. If you’re clever, you can fit two of these half-moon quesadillas in the skillet at once.

Slice the quesadilla into quarters, top with sour cream, salsa verde and cilantro. Serve (yourself) immediately.


Sam said...

you are making me wish I only had myself to feed tonight!

Julie said...

Going solo occasionally is quite nice, isn't it!

christine said...

Beautifully done Julie! I love your treatment of the chayote.