Saturday, July 19, 2008

Grilled Zucchini Wraps with Pineapple and Smoked Paprika

I know what I'm eating for the rest of the summer. I thought it was going to be ice cream, but it turns out I was wrong. I have discovered the perfect summer food, and I am going to enjoy it as long as I can. I have made and devoured these grilled zucchini wraps three times now and they are the most mouthwatering, flavourful and versatile meal I've had in ages.

These wraps are serious contenders in a field normally dominated by field fresh tomatoes and corn on the cob, farm house mozzarella and home grown basil. They are fresh, bursting with the flavours of summer, and quick and easy to make even if you live in an apartment with no balcony and don't have a real grill. The paprika adds a wonderful smokiness to the vegetables even without charcoal and the cumin, chipotle and olive oil combine with the sweetness of the pineapple to wow the tongue with every bite.

The key to this wrap is fresh ingredients. Obviously unless you live in the tropics, your pineapple is going to be a bit ship worn, but look for one that smells ripe (stick your nose close to it. If you don't smell anything, don't buy it). If at all possible, buy your zucchini organic and local, and get small ones, the big boys tend to be tough and we don't want that. Same goes for the tomato. We want the freshest, ripest and most flavourful tomato one can find. If you can pick it from your backyard, all the better. If not, try to find a local farmer you can buy some from. Tomatoes that are shipped long distances (say, from California to Washington DC) are usually picked before they ripen fully, and they never have the flavour and texture of those plucked ripe from the vine.

Grilled Zucchini Wraps with Pineapple and Smoked Paprika

Makes two wraps. This is a very forgiving recipe, so if you don't happen to have a fresh pineapple sitting on your counter, go ahead and try it without, or substitute mango or peaches. You won't have the same distinct pineapple flavour, but it will still be good. Personally I ate this twice before thinking of adding pineapple to it, and it was delicious without any fruit at all.

While this wrap is great as is, you can also add grilled tofu or tempeh or some fish, shrimp or chicken. Just rub your protein of choice with the same spices as the veggies, grill until done, and add to your tortilla. If you are using fish you probably will want to wrap it in tin foil so it doesn't flake apart on your grill. With both the fish and chicken you may want to pull the meat apart into little pieces, carnitas-style, so that you can easily chow down on your wrap.

Finally, you can also experiment with different vegetables. Personally I plan to try this with some young eggplant, you might also want to use strips of bell pepper for a classic fajita-style combo. If it sounds good, it probably is, so let your palate be your guide and don't worry about straying from the recipe, that's how new ones are invented!

I grilled my zucchini on a small, plug-in George Foreman counter top electric grill. If you are lucky enough to have the real deal, lucky you! If you don't have any type of grill, you can simply cook the pineapple and veggies in a dry cast iron, or in a pinch, non-stick, pan. Keep an eye on them so they don't stick and cook until the onion is slightly caramelized and the zucchini and pineapple have softened. If you have a grill pan, use that to get those awesome stripey grill marks.

4 ounces zucchini (1 medium zucchini, about 7 inches long, or 2 small ones)

1 medium tomato

about 2 ounces of pineapple, or 4 or 5 thin strips, cut vertically (top to bottom) from the fruit.

1/8-1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika ( I used pimento de la vera)

1/8-1/4 tsp ground cumin

about 1/8 tsp ground chipotle pepper or to taste

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

2 whole wheat tortillas or wraps (use your favorite wrap of choice)

1 lime cut into wedges

A small handful of cilantro, chopped


1. Fire up your grill, plug in your George Foreman or pull out your grill pan and turn on the burner. While your method of choice is heating up, wash the zucchini and slice it very thinly lengthwise into strips. Peel and thinly slice the onion. Cut the top and bottom off of the pineapple, then cut a wedge out like you would from a melon. Once you have the slice in hand, lay it skin side down on your cutting board and run a sharp knife along between the skin and the flesh to remove the skin. Cut out any eyes with the tip of your knife. Then cut the wedge into several very thin slices lengthwise. Note: By peeling the slice after cutting it from the pineapple, you can leave the rest of the pineapple unpeeled, wrap it in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and store it for up to a week in the fridge. If you peel the whole fruit at once, you will want to use it all in the next couple days. To see a tutorial of how to peel a whole pineapple, go here.

2. Toss the zucchini, onion and pineapple in a bowl. Spritz lightly with about half a teaspoon of olive oil. Using your hands, toss the fruit and vegetables until they are lightly coated with oil, then add the spices and toss again until they are evenly seasoned.

3. Lay the slices carefully on your grill and cook until you get good grill marks and the onions are soft. Turn the zucchini and pineapple to mark both sides. On my Foreman grill it only took 2-3 minutes on each side to cook the zucchini and caramelize the onions and pineapple. Be especially careful with the pineapple, since the sugars in the fruit burn easily. Meanwhile, heat up the tortillas, either on the grill or grill-pan or in a hot, un-greased frying pan (preferably cast iron).

4. Place a hot tortilla on a plate and load it up with onion, zucchini and pineapple. Top with thinly sliced tomato. If you grilled any meat, fish or tofu, add it to the wrap as well. If you like, you can add some mayo, Cajun remoulade or any other spread to the tortilla. However, the wrap is just as good with a hearty sprinkle of chopped cilantro and a big squeeze of lime juice. I like a little hot sauce on top too, but then I think everything is better with hot sauce.


Chef Matt said...

Zucchini and pineapple? Wow, that is a combination I have never thought of myself. I am intrigued, and will have to try this!

Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe. Now I am obsessed!!! Thank you so much for sharing. In fact, I think today is a good day to cook this again...