Cooked, not charred

Keep an eye on broiling foods for sizzling flavor, fast

cooking, Food, Food & Drink, Life,
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August 12, 2014 | 1:36 pm

Broiler drawers are like a kitchen’s garage — often used for storage, rarely for its intended purpose. Just as we fill garages with everything but the family car, we stuff our oven’s broiler drawers with pots and pans, baking sheets and cutting boards.

Regardless of whether your broiler is a drawer or not, broiling a technique that’s often underused and underappreciated by cooks.

It also can do more than melt cheese, brown toppings and make a mean indoor s’more.

This month’s The Gazette KCRG Cook Club recipe — Stacked Vegetable Caprese Crostini with Jalapeno Blue Cheese Pesto — uses the broiler to do more heavy lifting.

This recipe follows up July’s recipe for a grilled summer vegetable sandwich, which used another form of high-heat cooking — the grill.

Think of the broiler like an upside- down grill. High heat — around 550 degrees in most ovens — delivers the same charred flavor as a grill. Not sure about turning on the oven in summer? The broiler doesn’t require preheating and cooks meats, vegetables and fruits in a matter of minutes.

In batches, we first broiled thin slices of zucchini, summer squash and red onion. Broiling vegetables gives them the same caramelized edges and flavor boost as roasting in a fraction of the time.

Next, we crisped up a French bread base.

Finally, we stacked it all up, topped the vegetables with a slice of fresh mozzarella, diced garden fresh tomatoes and a dollop of pesto made with blue cheese instead of Parmesan and mixture of parsley and basil, plus a jalapeno for a pop of heat.

Easily served at room temperature, this appetizer or light summer supper can be assembled ahead of time.

Stacked Vegetable Caprese Crostini with Jalapeno Blue Cheese Pesto

Pesto

2 large garlic cloves

1/4 cup walnuts

1 ounce fresh basil and parsley (stems removed)

1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 small jalapeno

Vegetables

1 large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 pound zucchini, diagonally cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 pound yellow squash, diagonally cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cooking spray

Crostini

1 French baguette, diagonally cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

kosher salt

Cooking spray

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced in rounds

1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced

To prepare pesto, add garlic cloves and jalapeno to food processor; process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl; cover and chill.

Turn broiler on high, place top oven rack 5 inches from heating element.

Spray baking sheet, broiler pan or jellyroll pan with cooking spray. Lay squash, zucchini and red onion in single layer on pan (note: you will need to do this step in batches). Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Broil for 4 minutes with oven door ajar. Remove and flip vegetables. Return to oven and broil for 3 minutes or until browned, but not burned. Remove from pan or set aside to cool.

Spray second pan with cooking spray, lay bread slices in single layer. Spray with cooking spray and add salt to taste.

Broil bread 1 to 2 minutes, flip and broil 1 to 2 minutes with door ajar.

To assemble crostini, alternate four slices of squash and zucchini on top of a baguette slice. End with red onion rings, mozzarella slice, teaspoon of diced tomatoes and a drizzle of pesto.

Source: Carly Weber for The Gazette KCRG Cook Club

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