I really love this job of mine, but if I had to pick a few things I don’t love about it, washing the dishes and photographing quesadillas would be pretty high on the list. Honestly, you should see my first attempt at photographing these triangular nuggets. The sweet potato noodles inside didn’t help, and the photos were not cute. Not cute at all.
So, I owe props to my friend Ali of Inspiralized, who always manages to make veggie noodles so enticing. She has a blog full of recipes, a best-selling cookbook and her own proprietary contraption that turns vegetables into noodle shapes (the Inspiralizer). She’s basically taking over the world, one veggie noodle at a time, and I’m really proud of her. Veggie power!
Last week, she invited a few bloggers (myself included) to Chicago to eat lunch at Houlihan’s, which is running a special “Inspiralized” menu through June. Ali provided direction and helped develop the menu, and I was so impressed by Houlihan’s execution. Did you know that they make everything from scratch?
Plates of creative veggie noodle dishes kept showing up, and I found myself wondering why on earth I haven’t published more veggie noodle recipes. They’re really fun, and I’ll give two thumbs’ up to anything that entices people to eat more veggies.
These quesadillas were roughly inspired by the sweet potato and corn “Mexicali” flatbread we sampled last week. They’re stuffed full of spicy sweet potatoes, which were easier to prepare and cook in noodle form—no chopping required—plus black beans and just enough cheddar cheese to hold them all together. If you’ve enjoyed my Southwestern kale salad or sweet potato burrito bowls, you’re going to love these.
Given that Ali’s book is still on Amazon’s top 100 list (one year later!), I’m guessing that more than a few of you are familiar with veggie noodles and might have your own spiralizer already. If you don’t, don’t worry—I included directions for how to cook little sweet potato cubes in the recipe below.
- 1 cup mild salsa verde, either homemade or store-bought
- 1 large ripe avocado, pitted and sliced into a few big pieces
- Big handful of fresh cilantro (some stems are ok)
- ½ lime, juiced (about 1 tablespoon lime juice)
- 1 medium-to-large sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 whole grain tortillas (about 8” in diameter)
- 3 cups (about 6 to 8 ounces) freshly grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 cup cooked black beans (from one 15-ounce can), rinsed and drained
- 2 teaspoons refined avocado oil or other quality high-heat vegetable oil, for brushing
- Make the avocado salsa verde: In a food processor or blender, combine the salsa verde, avocado, cilantro and about 1 tablespoon lime juice. Blend until the salsa until it is super creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Scoop it into a bowl for dipping.
- IF YOU HAVE A SPIRALIZER: Slice off the pointy ends of the sweet potatoes, then spiralize the sweet potatoes using blade A (the skinniest noodle option). Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add the spiralized sweet potato, chili powder, cumin and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the noodles are tender and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes (I added another tablespoon oil to my cast iron skillet to prevent the noodles from sticking; non-stick skillets may not need any extra).
- IF YOU DON'T HAVE A SPIRALIZER: Slice your sweet potatoes into ¼" cubes. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and toss to coat, then add the chili powder, cumin and a pinch salt. Stir to combine. Once the pan is sizzling, add a scant ¼ cup water, then cover the pan and reduce heat to low to avoid burning the contents. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Make the quesadillas, one or two 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 ⅓ cup shredded cheese. Cover the cheese with ¼th of the cooked sweet potatoes and ¼ cup beans. Sprinkle about ⅓ cup cheese over the 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 oil, then flip it with a spatula. Let the underside of the quesadilla cook until golden and crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Brush the topside with a light coating of olive oil, then carefully flip it and cook until the underside is golden and crispy. Transfer it to a cutting board. Repeat with remaining quesadillas.
- Slice each quesadilla into three even wedges using a sharp pizza cutter or chef's knife. Serve immediately, with avocado salsa verde on the side.
Make it dairy free/vegan: I haven't tried this, but I think you could substitute refried black beans for the whole black beans, and they might/should hold the quesadillas together.
Storage suggestions: Store leftover avocado salsa verde in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed against the top surface to prevent oxidation. Leftover quesadillas will keep well, refrigerated, for a few days—just reheat in the microwave or, better yet, the oven before serving.