and bacon quesadillas: Mashed white beans, bacon and
we denizens of the sumptuously appointed Headquarters of
Prep School Inc. try to avoid covering similar topics too
closely together. Last monthís column on pancakes,
however, garnered so much enthusiasm for the Flat Food Group
that we decided to eschew tradition and have another go at
the horizontal victuals. Today, we give you the quesadilla.
YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS
have kids? Do you know any kids? Would you describe yourself
as a flat foodie? (Floodie?) If you answered "yes"
to any of these, the quesadilla is the answer to most of
your needs and many of your prayers. Itís easy to make. Itís
versatile. Itís delicious. And best of all, itís flat.
What else do you need in a food item?
STEPS YOU TAKE
case youíve just arrived from, I donít know, the sun,
and you havenít had a quesadilla before, itís a Mexican
item made by heating a tortilla on a griddle or pan. (In
Mexico they use a flat griddle pan called a "comal.")
Cheese or other fillings are placed on top, then itís
either folded in half or another tortilla is placed on top
and the whole thing is flipped. Theyíre great on their
own, but even better with salsa and sour cream.
a little history, because a little history never hurt
anyone. Weíve mentioned before, in Prep School, the
Columbian Exchange. This term, coined by the historian
Alfred W. Crosby, refers to European explorersí transfer
of living species ó both plants and animals as well as
disease ó between the Old World of Europe and Asia and the
New World of the Americas.
the time of the so-called Age of Exploration, many of our
favorite cuisines looked very different from what they are
today. There were no tomatoes in Italian cuisine (Imagine!),
no chilies in Thai cuisine and no cheese in Mexico. Keep
that in mind the next time you use Mr. Peabodyís WABAC
machine to travel back to Montezumaís kitchenette: not a
quesadilla to be found.
that matter, you wonít find any wheat flour tortillas at
all, only corn. (Interestingly, some scholars believe that
wheat flour tortillas are the result of Spanish Jewish
immigrants to Mexico who were attempting to re-create the
unleavened bread they knew from Europe.)
in modern kitchens, we have available to us not only corn
and flour tortillas, but also tortillas made from a host of
other ingredients: rice, spelt, chia seeds. On top of that,
you could use other types of flatbreads to create something
close enough to a quesadilla that your kids wonít know the
difference, like an Indian chapati, the Armenian lavash or
the Norwegian lefse. Remember, there are no jackbooted,
black-clad cuisine police to come bursting through your door
to arrest you for Crimes Against Authenticity. At least not
until Donald Trump becomes president.
talk about the quesadilla filling. Shredded cheese is
ubiquitous. A Mexican cheese like Oaxaca would be typical.
Truthfully, though, my kids just like mozzarella or cheddar.
Pretty much any melty cheese will be great for a couple of
reasons. First, the melted cheese helps hold the two sides
together, like a grilled cheese sandwich. Second, who doesnít
like melty cheese?
is also really common as a quesadilla filler. Grilled or
pan-seared breast, sliced thin and layered with the cheese
is easy and delicious.
thing I love about quesadillas, though, is that, as much as
I love the flavor and texture of tortillas, they can really
function here primarily as the delivery system for whatever
youíre stuffing inside. That includes leftovers from the
fridge, both savory and sweet. Better yet, even though the
quesadilla is Mexican, you donít need to stick with
Mexican-inspired stuffings. Anything that tastes good on its
own can go inside, like leftover lamb stew or a chunky
Bolognese sauce. Get creative. Raid the fridge. One thing to
remember, though, is that generally we stuff only with
things that donít need cooking (like the cheese) or with
precooked items (like the sauces).
the cooking of the quesadilla, as I mentioned earlier, there
are two basic ways to make a quesadilla: using one tortilla
folded in half or using two to sandwich the filling in
between. There are two considerations here. The first is,
how hungry am I, really? The second, and in my opinion the
more important, one is, what am I filling it with? Melty
cheese makes it easier to flip if youíre making the
two-tortilla variety. If your filling is somewhat runny,
however, you might be better off using the one tortilla
method, as it needs to be only folded in half.
house, we use a nonstick pan that doesnít require any fat.
If youíre using a regular stick pan, you might want to
coat it with a little bit of oil or pan spray before adding
the tortillas. Regardless, heat the pan over a medium flame.
When itís hot, place one tortilla onto the pan.
Immediately add your filling and top with a second tortilla
(if youíre using one). If your filling is very cold, you
might want to cover the pan to encourage warming of the
filling. Donít touch the tortilla until the bottom gets a
little brown. Then, if you are using two tortillas,
carefully flip the quesadilla and brown the other side. If
youíre only using one, carefully fold it in half. Either
way, transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and cut it
into wedges and serve while itís hot.
are a few ideas for interesting quesadillas:
and bacon: Mashed white beans (or black beans or pintos or
kidneys or whatever), bacon and shredded melty cheese
(cheddar, pepper jack, etc.).
style: Cooked basmati rice, dal (cooked Indian-style
lentils) and grilled, sliced chicken breast.
quesadilla: Scrambled egg, cooked greens and more shredded
quesadilla: Like a Mexican calzone, just spread some red or
white sauce and add your favorite topping.
quesadilla: Mascarpone cheese mixed with a little vanilla or
a drop of brandy and slices of fresh or grilled fruit like
peaches or strawberries. (Allow the tortilla to cool
somewhat so that the mascarpone wonít melt.)