Quesadillas Al Carbon
Barbecue grills are legendary for cooking a steak al carbon or burger to roast an ear of corn or a foil-wrapped potato. What they’re not as well known for-at, at least not yet-is their top-notch talent for cooking bread.
Bread takes on that excellent charcoal taste with aplomb that makes them equal to anything that comes off the grill.
Pizzas are natural. The most trendy restaurants cook their pizzas in wood-fueled ovens, not unlike the backyard barbecue grill. The crust, etched with well-defined grill marks, is crisp on the outside, chewy and tender inside.
The slightly smoky taste is an ideal platform for whatever topping you crave, whether garlic-scented fresh tomatoes, as it is here or a more exotic concoction of wild mushrooms and pancetta.
Tex-Mex takes to the grill, too. Quesadillas al carbon is a sensational mix of creamy cheese and mangoes, enclosed sandwich-style flour tortillas. A hint of charcoal flavor makes these a winner.
In Mexico, quesadillas are made of tortillas filled with cheese, folded over, and sauteed until the cheese is soft and oozy. I’ve added sweet, juicy slices of mango, which offer a nice balance to the rich cheese.
QUESADILLAS AL CARBON
Four quesadillas al carbon
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Grilling time: About 5 minutes
3 ounces each: shredded longhorn Colby, Monterey Jack cheese
Eight seven 1/4-inch flour tortillas
1/4 of a large, ripe mango, peeled, cut into thin slices
1/3 cup cilantro (coriander) leaves
1. Assemble quesadillas al carbon as follows: divide cheeses among four tortillas, spreading to within 3/4 inch of the edge of a tortilla. Top with mango, then cilantro. Cover it with another tortilla and brush the top with oil.
2. Grill, oiled, sided down, over a fire until bottom is lightly browned. Press with a spatula to seal, brush with oil, then turn over. Cook until the other side is lightly browned. Serve immediately with salsa.
About 1 1/2 cups
Preparation time: 10 minutes
One large garlic clove
One jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded if desired
1/2 cup cilantro (coriander)
One small onion
Two medium tomatoes, seeded
One teaspoon each: red wine vinegar, light olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Mince the garlic, pepper, cilantro, and onion in a food processor or by hand and place in a bowl. Cut the tomato into small dice and add to the bowl along with vinegar, oil, and salt.
Serve Salsa immediately or refrigerate for several days. Drain excess liquid and adjust seasoning before serving.
FRESH HERBED TOMATO PIZZA
Pizza can’t get more delicious than this. A slightly smoky mesquite fire infuses the chewy dough with the flavor of the great outdoors. A dazzling summer-fresh topping of vine-ripened tomatoes and garden herbs covered with melting cheese.
The best bet for easy entertaining-put bowls of different toppings out and let guests construct made-to-order pizzas.
Two 8-inch pizzas
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Grilling time: About 10 minutes
Herb oil: as you like
Five large fresh basil leaves
Three fresh sage leaves
Two tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
One medium garlic clove
1/4 cup light olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
One medium tomato (7 ounces)
One small onion (2 ounces)
4 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
1 ounce shredded parmesan cheese, preferably imported
Two 5-ounce pieces pizza dough, recipe follows
Julienned fresh basil leaves for garnish
1. To make the herb oil, mince the herbs and garlic in a food processor or by hand. Mix with oil and salt.
2. For the topping, seed the tomato and cut it into 1/4-inch dice. Toss with two teaspoons of herb oil and set aside. Cut the onion into paper-thin slices.
3. For pizzas, grill the dough over a fire with the cover on until they are browned on the underside. Remove from the grill and put them on a piece of foil with the grilled side facing up.
4. Stir herb oil and spoon one tablespoon onto the dough, then brush evenly over the dough. Divide the remaining ingredients and arrange evenly over dough in this order: onions, mozzarella, tomatoes, parmesan.
Place it back to the grill, cover, and cook until bottoms are browned and melted cheese. Dab lightly with herb oil and snip fresh basil over the top.
Five 8-inch pizzas
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Rising time: 1 hour
One envelope of active dry yeast
One teaspoon sugar
1 cup of tepid water (105 to 115 degrees)
3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
Two tablespoons light olive oil
One teaspoon salt
1. Whisk the leaven and sugar in the water and let settle until foamy.
2. To create dough in a food processor, set flour, oil and salt in the work dish and switch on the machine. Pour yeast blend through feed pipe and process until dough is humid but still cleans the surfaces of the work dish.
If it is incredibly sticky, include more flour by the tablespoon, letting it work in before adding extra. If it is arid, add more water by the teaspoon, allowing it to work in before adding more once the consistency is right, process dough until it is supple and elastic, about 40 seconds.
3. To make by hand, put flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Put oil and yeast mixture in the well and gradually stir flour into the liquid. Turn dough onto a floured board and knead until it is supple and elastic for about 5 minutes.
4. Place dough in a large plastic food bag and seal at the top. Let rise in a warm spot until it has doubled, about 1 hour. The dough can then be used momentarily or punched down and refrigerated for five days.
5. Separate dough into five equal segments. Roll each part on a floured board to an 8-inch circle—bundle between oiled sheets of the waxed sheet. The dough can be coiled several hours before cooking and refrigerated.
EXTRA-LIGHT CHICKEN QUESADILLAS
Swing your tortillas into a light and luscious delight in fewer than 15 minutes.
1 cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced
2 tbsp sweetcorn
150g fresh tomato salsa
2 medium soft flour tortillas
50g quark/extra light soft cheese.
1. Heat chicken, corn, and salsa in a pan until heated through, stirring occasionally.
2. Spread one tortilla with quark or extra light cheese, such as Philadelphia. Spoon the chicken blend over one tortilla and top with the other.
3. Heat a large frying skillet and add the filled tortilla. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 mins or until crispy and golden brown.
Carefully turn over with a wide spatula to cook the alternative side until golden brown.
Chop into four chunks and present with a generous green salad.
GETTING FIRED UP TO COOK
Fuel for thought:
Unless you have a gas grill, you probably build your fire with charcoal briquettes, just one of Henry Ford’s clever inventions. Many brands of modern-day briquettes are laced with fillers and chemical additives, so you may want to rethink your strategy.
Hardwood charcoal is a better bet. Made from whole pieces of wood; there are no mystery ingredients to worry about. Plus, they burn up to 300 degrees hotter than briquettes.
I cook on a gas grill and find that a few chunks of wood (not wood charcoal) are tossed in just before you cook the food, imparting a wonderful smoky flavor.