During the cold winter months, toward the end of January, we invariably get a notice from our local farm inviting us to join in on a CSA for the coming growing season. In the midst of the darkness, the snow and the ice, the notice is a great reminder that spring and summer will indeed come—at some point.
Now we are in the midst of summer. It’s only the first week of July, and already the time is rushing by. New England is lush and ripe with rich green fields dotted by bright yellow, rich orange and vibrant purple wildflowers which will soon be shorn for hay. Birds sing to wake us in the morning and caw just as the sun begins to set over our hillside. In our family, summer includes the celebration of two birthdays (my son’s and mine) along with the memory of deeply painful loss. My sister died on the 4th of July many years ago. As we approach that date, every year I think it won’t hurt any more, but it does. Still, I love this time of year. I don’t want to miss a moment outdoors—even pulling weeds in the garden is a welcome excuse to get outside. I don’t want to miss a single swim at the pond or a chance to bite into a fresh strawberry or stain my hands blueberry picking. I want to cook our dinner on the grill as often as possible and admire sunset. I want to make the most of this very special time.
Our vegetable share this week included an abundance of greens—spinach, mesclun mix, all manner of lettuces—along with pick-your-own strawberries. When I approached the strawberry fields to collect ours, a voice called to me from the far end of the field, saying here are the biggest berries. While I thanked her for the encouragement to make the trek, I stayed at my edge of the field where the tiniest berries were ripe for picking. It took a little longer to fill my bucket, but they were so delicate and sweet that it was worthwhile. This dinner of Grilled Quesadillas with Mixed Greens, Herbs and Strawberry Salad was a perfect way to celebrate the abundance around us. The quesadillas take but a moment or two to do on the grill while the greens are ever-so-lightly dressed with a bit of sunflower oil and citrus juice. The sun-sweetened strawberries are a perfect complement to the savory taste and textures of the salad and smoky quesadillas. Equally right for lunch or dinner, this is a sublime summer meal.
What are you enjoying this summer?
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
CHEESE QUESADILLAS WITH MIXED GREENS AND STRAWBERRY SALAD
For the quesadillas:
- 8 taco-sized tortillas (white, corn, whole wheat or gluten-free)
- 1 cup shredded cheeses (cheddar, Monterey Jack or a mixture of the two)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 4 cups summer greens (mesclun mix, spinach red leaf lettuce), or a mixture, rinsed, dried and torn into large pieces
- ½ cup assorted fresh herbs (basil, oregano, lovage or a mixture), rinsed, dried and finely chopped
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, stems removed, rinsed and cut up as needed
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- Juice of 1 lemon, lime or small orange
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 edible pansies, stems removed, rinsed and dried (optional)
- Preheat your grill to high.
- Place four of the tortillas on a clean work surface. Sprinkle with grated cheese, dividing all the cheese evenly between the tortillas. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Place the other for tortillas on top of the cheese.
- Using a heat-proof spatula, transfer the filled tortillas to the grill. Leave on the grill for one minute, then carefully flip them. Leave on the grill again until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are puffed up, about one minute more.
- Place the quesadillas on a cutting board and cut each into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to 4 dinner plates, arranging them attractively on one side of the plate.
- Place the prepared greens, herbs and berries in a large mixing bowl. Toss together. Drizzle with sunflower oil and citrus juice. Toss again. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Divide the salad between the 4 dinner plates holding the prepared quesadillas. Garnish with edible pansies, if using.
- Serve and enjoy.
- For a heartier dish, add slivers of cooked chicken, shrimp or beef to the quesadillas before grilling or sprinkle on the salad.
- For a full meal, serve with chilled beer or sangria, some steamed rice or roasted potatoes. Try this tart for dessert.