Tue May 7, 2013
Even though I grill year-round, spring still brings a giddiness that "grilling season" has finally arrived. That stir of excitement has only increased since I've started competing, but even though I'm ready to jump into action, I haven't found any comps yet with the right combo of timing and distance that I can enter. It's an odd feeling, because as I look back at last spring, I was so engaged in developing the best recipes for these competitions. I remember fine tuning my ribs and chicken, figuring out what will blow away the judges for "Chef's Choice," and trying to answer the question, what's a great grilled vegetable? In my attempt to unravel the riddle of the last point, I came across these zucchini rolls with goat cheese and mint. In the end I didn't use them in competition, but maybe should have because they're way more impressive than the chili-lime corn I ended up turning in.
When I first posted this recipe on Serious Eats, I put a quick 30 minute start to finish for the rolls and was called out as understating the time considering all the prep they require. Maybe I was 10 minutes shy of what it really took, but honestly, the prep isn't so bad—as long as you have a mandoline that is.
The trick to getting this done in around the 30 minute mark is to first light the fire, then scurry back to the kitchen to thinly slice zucchini. With a mandoline, this is fast work and done in mere minutes.
With the extra 15 minutes or so you have until the fire is ready, bring a small pan of water to boil. When it's boiling, quickly blanch a bunch of chives and then set them out to dry. These softened chives will later be used to tie the rolls together.
Once the grill is ready, it only takes about 5-7 minutes to brown the thin oiled and seasoned zucchini over direct high heat. They quickly soften and caramelize, transforming them into delicious sweet and fresh strips ready to be stuffed and rolled.
Off the grill, each zucchini slice gets a spread of super soft goat cheese followed by a drizzle of balsamic and sprinkle of fresh mint. A strip of hot red pepper and single leaf of arugula is placed at one end, then the whole thing is rolled shut and secured with a piece of chive "string."
I'm not the type of cook who handles delicate dishes like this well, so I was impressed that I completed them and with such speed. The rolls had a tremendous amount of flavor in each bite with so much stuffed into a little package—they were fresh, creamy, salty, herbal, and spicy. Even though I pulled it off and was happy with them, I thought they may be too labor intensive and lead to overextending myself at my first comp, so they didn't make the cut. That was last year though, and now I'm just left wishing I had a competition on the calendar that has me prepping with such creative thought and ferver as I was last spring. Oh well, I can't dwell on that too much with the start of the Meatwave right around the corner!
Zucchini Rolls with Goat Cheese and Mint
Adapted from Two Fat Als
- Prep Time:
- 35 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 7 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 42 Minutes
- 20 rolls
- 1 small bunch fresh chives
- 4-5 medium zucchinis (about 2 pounds), washed, ends removed, and cut into 1/8-1/4" slices lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
- 1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 handful baby arugula
- 2 fresno peppers, or other similar hot red pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/8" matchsticks
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over medium heat. Blanch chives in boiling water until softened, about 15 to 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towel lined plate and set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 10 minutes. Alternatively, preheat a gas grill on high heat with lid closed for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Brush zucchini with oil and season with salt and pepper, flip and repeat on second side. Grill zucchini over direct heat until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to cutting board.
- Spread 1 teaspoon of goat cheese over each zucchini slice, then sprinkle with mint and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
- Place 1 piece of arugula and 1 piece of sliced pepper at end of zucchini slice and gently roll slice together from that end. Tie a chive around each roll to secure close. Serve warm or at room temperature.