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GOOD COOKING

Have You Ever Barbecued a Tortilla?

August 11, 1994|ABBY MANDEL

During August, barbecued hamburgers and chicken may begin to lose their appeal, but we still want to grill things. Consider, then, a light supper menu that uses the barbecue in an entirely different way--grilling quesadillas filled with onions, tomatoes, Chihuahua cheese and a bold cilantro mustard. Serve them with a crunchy sweet-corn confetti salad, spooned into small lettuce leaves for easy serving, even easier eating.

For dessert, bring on a plate of Mexican praline cookies, a buttery caramel-pine nut cookie that holds up in the summer heat.

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Chihuahua cheese resembles a fairly soft Cheddar with a good proportion of fat, which means it melts quickly and tastes great. You can substitute a good medium-sharp Cheddar, Muenster or Monterey Jack. The Cilantro Mustard is piquant enough to bring these straightforward ingredients together.

GRILLED QUESADILLAS WITH CILANTRO MUSTARD 1 large red onion (about 3/4 pound), sliced 1/4-inch thick 8 (6 1/2-inch diameter) flour tortillas 1 large tomato (about 3/4 pound), sliced thin 2 cups Chihuahua cheese, shredded Cilantro Mustard Cilantro Salt Water for brushing

Grill onion slices over hot barbecue fire, turning once, until starting to brown and soften. Set aside. May be done several hours ahead and kept at room temperature.

Spread 1 tablespoon Cilantro Mustard on 1 tortilla, then layer with 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 of grilled onion, 1/4 of tomato slices and cilantro to taste. Sprinkle lightly with salt and another 1/4 cup cheese. Spread 1 tablespoon Cilantro Mustard on 2nd tortilla and place on top, mustard side down. Compact gently with hands. Fill remaining tortillas in same way. Brush tortillas lightly with water.

Grill quesadillas over hot barbecue fire, turning once until cheese is melted. (To turn easily, transfer each onto paper plate, place 2nd plate over and invert; use spatula to transfer back onto grill.) While quesadillas are cooking, press down with spatula to keep from coming apart. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

341 calories; 767 mg sodium; 37 mg cholesterol; 17 grams fat; 31 grams carbohydrates; 15 grams protein; 0.81 gram fiber.

Cilantro Mustard 1 large garlic clove, peeled 1 1/2 jalapenos, seeded 3 large green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces 1 1/2 cups loosely packed cilantro (stems included) 3 to 4 teaspoons lime juice 3/4 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/4 teaspoon salt

Add garlic and jalapeno to food processor fitted with metal blade or blender with motor running. Process until minced. Add green onions, cilantro, lime juice, mustard and salt and process until blended as smooth as possible.

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If this is your first taste of raw corn, you're in for a treat. This salad can be served right after it's mixed or held a day in the refrigerator. It's in lettuce leaves, so it could be a finger food.

CRUNCHY SWEET-CORN CONFETTI SALAD 2 cups corn cut off the cob (from about 2 large ears) 1/2 cup diced zucchini 1/2 cup diced red pepper 3 large green onions, sliced 1 cup diced jicama Small center romaine leaves or Belgian endive leaves Cumin Vinaigrette

Combine corn, zucchini, pepper, onions and jicama in 2-quart bowl. Toss with Cumin Vinaigrette. Spoon into romaine or endive leaves. May be made day ahead and refrigerated. Serve chilled. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

164 calories; 313 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1.37 grams fiber.

Cumin Vinaigrette 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1/4 cup white vinegar 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced 1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine oil, vinegar, cumin, sugar, jalapeno and salt in small bowl.

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These cookies can stand on their own but they also enhance ice cream, sorbets and any array of fresh fruit or berries.

MEXICAN PRALINE COOKIES 1 cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 1 large egg yolk 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon salt 2 cups flour 1 cup finely chopped toasted pine nuts 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

In mixer, cream sugar and butter until smooth. Mix in egg yolk, cinnamon and salt. Add flour and mix well. Add chopped pine nuts and mix until just blended.

Take 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into ball. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. (Cookies will spread slightly.) Bake at 350 degrees until edges begin to turn brown, about 22 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack.

To serve, sprinkle tops with powdered sugar, pressed through fine sieve. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Note: To toast pine nuts, place rack in center of 350-degree oven. Spread pine nuts in single layer on baking sheet. Bake until golden and fragrant, 7-10 minutes. Be careful that they do not burn. May be frozen several months.

Each serving contains about:

95 calories; 11 mg sodium; 14 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.05 gram fiber.

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