Confession: if it weren’t for this blog, I would probably subsist on quesadillas. Any time inspiration and leftovers are running low, I’ll stuff a tortilla with cheese and whatever else I can scrounge up in the vegetable crisper and call it a meal.
Quesadillas, literally queso tortillas in Spanish, originated in Mexico, along with so many other tasty things. Although my default quesadilla is stuffed with black beans and dipped in salsa, my quesadillas don’t always feature traditional Mexican flavors. And why should they? Quesadillas are just another delightful cheese-and-bread base recipe with endless flavor possibilities, like pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches and crêpes.
This quesadilla came to be when I had chopped vegetables and dip left over from my Greek farro and chickpea salad. It was lunchtime; I was hungry; there was no more salad to eat. Enter the quesadilla solution. If we’re getting real here, I’ll confess that I was probably still wearing my pajamas because I don’t get dressed until someone’s around to appreciate it.
Anyway, I pulled out my trusty cast iron skillet, shredded some cheese, and threw a tortilla on the pan. Five minutes later, I dipped a crispy corner of quesadilla into herbed yogurt dip and took a bite of one of my most delicious, blog-worthy quesadillas yet. Sweet tomatoes, filling chickpeas and salty sliced kalamata olives, sandwiched between layers of creamy cheese and crisp tortilla, became a totally satisfying one-skillet meal.
In case you want to throw together a quesadilla for dinner tonight, I thought I’d share some quesadilla tips today. Without further ado:
- Use one tortilla per quesadilla, and fold it over on itself in a half-moon shape. It’s much easier to manage than a giant, round quesadilla made with two tortillas.
- Be sure your pan is large enough to accommodate the quesadilla lengthwise, so it can get nice and toasty from end to end.
- Don’t crank up the heat too high. You want a moderate heat that will slowly melt the cheese and crisp the tortillas without scorching them. That said, make sure to cook each side long enough that they get deeply golden and most importantly, crispy. Crispiness is key.
- I like to include beans as a protein-rich filler that lightens up the cheesy-carby elements. It seems like a more well-balanced, full meal that way.
- I usually cook my tortillas in a cast iron pan without any oil, but just barely frying the outsides with a light brush of oil is a nice touch (see instructions included in the recipe below).
- For a cheesy flavor explosion like, woah, sprinkle a little bit of cheese on the outside of the quesadilla, let it melt, and then flip it so the cheese fries against the quesadilla (this is also a great trick for grilled cheese sandwiches). Repeat with the other side if you’d like. You can find more detailed instructions in my crispy mushroom, spinach and avocado quesadillas recipe.
- 1 whole grain tortilla (use gluten-free tortillas for gluten-free quesadillas)
- 3/4 cup shredded raw farmers’ cheese or Monterrey Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup cooked chickpeas, well drained
- 8 mini heirloom, cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
- 7 pitted kalamata olives, sliced into thin rounds (or a sprinkle of capers or crumbled feta cheese)
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, for brushing
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons packed fresh dill, torn into pieces
- 2 tablespoons packed fresh mint (or basil or flat-leaf parsley), torn into pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 of a large lemon)
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Make the dip: In a food processor or blender, combine all of the dip ingredients. Blend well, and transfer to a bowl(s) for dipping.
- Make the quesadilla(s) one at a time: heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Warm one tortilla for about 30 seconds, flipping halfway. Flip once more, and sprinkle one-half of the tortilla with about half of the shredded cheese. Cover the cheese with chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, and red onion. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the other fillings and fold over the empty side of the tortilla to enclose the fillings.
- Quickly brush the topside of the quesadilla with a light coating of olive oil, and flip it with a spatula. Let the underside of the quesadilla cook until golden and crispy, about a minute or two. Brush the topside with a light coating of olive oil, flip it and cook until the underside is golden and crispy. Flip it once more and immediately transfer it to a cutting board.
- Let the quesadilla cool for a couple minutes, then slice it into three even wedges using a sharp pizza cutter or chef’s knife. Serve immediately, with a side of yogurt dipping sauce.