Friday, March 4, 2011

Quesadilla: Spanish for fast food

By Helen Klein

Quesadillas are a culinary standby in my home — they’re easy to make, and incredibly versatile.

Just put together a savory mixture of vegetables and beans, top with cheese, fold into a tortilla and broil for a couple of minutes, and you have a flavorful main course that’s ready for prime time.

For this recipe, I combined chopped onion, garlic, celery and red pepper and sautéed till they were limp and the onions were translucent and caramelized. Then, I added a can of black beans (drained) and small cubes of crookneck squash (you could easily substitute zucchini).

After the squash had softened a bit, I added about half a cup of homemade tomato sauce I had in the fridge, and flavored the mixture with cumin, a pinch of very spicy habañero chili powder and salt and pepper.

Black Bean Quesadillas
Serves four


1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 colored pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tbl. olive oil
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2–3/4 cup favorite tomato sauce
1 tsp. cumin
Pinch habañero chili powder (substitute regular chili powder if you don’t like very spicy food)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5 oz. Monterey Jack with jalapeño peppers, coarsely grated
4 eight-inch wheat tortillas
Non-stick cooking spray
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing quesadillas


Preheat oven to broil.

Sauté onion, garlic, celery and pepper till softened in olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring to prevent burning. When vegetables are soft, add squash and beans, and continue cooking till squash is tender, adding a splash of water, as necessary, to prevent burning.

Add tomato sauce and spices and continue cooking another 5-10 minutes to blend flavors and heat through.

While vegetable mixture is cooking, spray a baking sheet lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

When the mixture is done, place a tortilla on the baking sheet, and top with a generous scoop of vegetables and beans, all to one side. Top with a generous sprinkling of cheese and fold over. Brush top with a little extra virgin olive oil. Continue with remaining tortillas.

When all tortillas are stuffed, place baking sheet in broiler and cook till top is golden and crisp, 1-3 minutes. Keep a careful eye on the quesadillas, as the tortillas can go from golden to burnt in just a few seconds.


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