Two Years Ago: chicken quinoa salad with nectarine vinaigrette
Ahhh, summer. Ideal summer foods are light, simple and tasty. If they involve grilling, so much the better. These shrimp quesadillas fit the bill in every way - they involve a grand total of five ingredients (not counting vegetable oil, which really shouldn't count) plus two brief grill visits to create something pretty special and very delicious.
You start by grilling some shrimp and red onion. While they grill (a total of maybe 10 whole minutes) you could a) sip a glass of wine and enjoy the breeze or b) shred some cheese for the next step. If you're really good you can do all three at the same time, but stay close to the grill - those shrimp go fast.
When the shrimp and onion are done, the onion is chopped and the shrimp sliced in half to form crescents. Dump the cheese, onion and shrimp on flour tortillas and grill until pretty, folding partway through. Serve with your favorite salsa or pico de gallo - just nothing too hot or bold that might overpower the shrimp.
A note about this recipe - it's from Rick Bayless, one of my favorite chefs. He calls for a young Manchego cheese, which is Spanish. He probably specifies young cheese because it gets stronger as it ages and again, he doesn't want to overpower the shrimp. It was very good with Manchego but you could certainly substitute Monterey Jack if you felt like it. You could also add lobster or crab in addition to the shrimp to make the quesadillas really special.
One quesadilla per person makes a light dinner with a side salad, or you could cut them into small pieces to use as an appetizer or part of a Mexican party table.
Grilled Shrimp Quesadillas
Makes 6 quesadillas
½ medium red onion, cut into ½-inch rounds
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp
¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
3 cups (about 12 ounces) shredded young Manchego cheese
6 (8-10 inch) flour tortillas
Salsa, for serving
Heat a gas grill to medium-high on one side, medium on the other, or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash, then bank the coals to one side. Using an oil mister or pastry brush, oil each onion round on both sides and lay on the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping them half way through, until soft and grill-marked, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then cut into ½-inch pieces.
Place shrimp on skewers for easy cooking. Oil the shrimp on both sides and lay the hottest side of the grill. Cook, flipping halfway through, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, cut them in half through the back making two crescents.
Lay the tortillas on the cooler side of the grill. Top each with about ½ cup of cheese and cook until the cheese starts to melt. Divide the grilled onion and shrimp among the tortillas. When the cheese is about half melted, fold the tortillas in half, enclosing the filling. Cook the quesadillas until the tortillas are lightly grilled and the filling is warmed through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with your favorite salsa.