With panache Entertaining: The classic American sandwich meets some international ingredients for a new twist on an old tradition.

A BLT

May 17, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

From now until late fall I can expect a sizable number of weekend guests at our house. Once the weather turns warm, our phone begins to ring with friends asking if they can stop by for a night or two. Typically, our friends are driving to the shore, and our home is a good stopping-off point for them.

During these brief visits, there are usually several meals involved. And I always make an effort to keep these menus simple so that my husband and I will have time to visit with our friends.

This season I have a new dish to add to my stash of "weekend company" recipes. I am always in search of imaginative sandwiches to serve for lunch and recently created some "BLT" Quesadillas. I spread flour tortillas with a layer of creamy chevre, sprinkle crumbled bacon over the cheese and then add lightly sauteed diced tomatoes and onions. For lettuce, I've tried both peppery watercress sprigs and pungent arugula leaves, each with fine results. The tortillas, folded in half to enclose their fillings, can be grilled in a stove-top grill pan or sauteed in a skillet. Either way, the cooking time is only a few minutes.

Sliced and served warm, these crisp sandwiches are irresistible. For a luncheon or a light supper, you could offer a soup to go with them; corn, zucchini or roasted red pepper potages would be good choices. Or the quesadillas could be accompanied by a salad of mixed greens, slices of avocado and orange segments. A bowl of fresh fruit is all that is necessary for dessert.

BLT Quesadillas

Makes 4 servings

5 strips bacon

2/3 cup chopped onions

1 cup diced plum tomatoes (4 to 5 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes)

1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

4 to 5 ounces creamy goat cheese

1 small bunch watercress or arugula, stemmed, cleaned and dried

olive oil for grilling or sauteing

Fry bacon in medium heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels, then crumble.

Pour off and discard all but 1 1/2 teaspoons bacon drippings and place pan over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, vinegar and red pepper flakes and cook and stir only 30 seconds more. Do not overcook tomatoes. Remove from heat. Season generously with salt.

Place tortillas on work surface. Spread each with 2 tablespoons goat cheese. Divide crumbled bacon and sprinkle over half of each tortilla. Divide and spread tomato mixture over bacon. Place 3 to 4 watercress sprigs or 2 to 3 arugula leaves over tomatoes on each tortilla. Fold tortillas in half.

(Quesadillas can be assembled 30 minutes ahead. Keep loosely covered with plastic wrap and leave at cool room temperature.)

When ready to cook quesadillas, heat stove-top grill pan over medium-high heat and brush lightly with olive oil. Or heat medium large skillet over medium-high heat and add just enough oil to coat lightly. When hot, add enough quesadillas to fit comfortably in single layer, and grill or saute until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and continue, adding more oil if needed, until all quesadillas are cooked.

To serve, slice quesadillas in half and mound in napkin-lined shallow basket. Serve warm.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author.

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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