THE WASHINGTON POST – Comfort and ease: That’s what quesadillas have always represented to me, since the very first time I folded a tortilla over some cheese.
You can complicate almost any dish, but it’s pretty hard to do that with quesadillas. There’s not much room on a six-inch corn tortilla, so you’ve got to keep the fillings pretty minimal. My favourites are beans (of course) and mushrooms. For the former, use whatever you have cooked – or in the can. Just warm the beans and mash them lightly with some spices (cumin and smoked paprika are my favourites) and a squeeze of lime if you’ve got it.
For the latter, I’ve always just winged it, often using leftover roasted mushrooms from one of my weekend big-batch roasting sessions. But I love the approach Diala Canelo takes in her new book, Diala’s Kitchen (Penguin Canada, 2020), sauteing the mushrooms with aromatic vegetables and spices before stuffing them into the tortillas with cheese, griddling and folding. She holds to the nothing-complicated rule of quesadilla making but adds nice touches: a little fresh parsley and fresh mozzarella instead of the more easy-to-come-by low-moisture variety. Both, incidentally, are optional.
I was a little sceptical about the use of fresh cheese, to be honest, because I worried it would make the filling watery. Instead, it provides just enough moisture inside, while getting a little charred and crisp in spots where it oozes out of the tortilla in the pan. Part-skim mozzarella will work well, too. Either way, you’ll end up with two words that make my mouth water: fried cheese.
In true quesadilla spirit, please feel free to adapt this to your own pantry and refrigerator situation right now. If you have a stash of dried mushrooms, employ them here, but if you don’t, use whatever you have that tastes good. A jar of roasted red peppers? Some leftover slaw? Sweet potatoes? Go for it.
Quesadillas are the quintessential Mexican snack. They are so simple to prepare: Sandwich cheese and vegetables in a corn tortilla and heat it until the cheese melts and the tortillas are golden. These are hearty, garlicky and perfect for a quick lunch. Serve with a salad or soup for a filling meal.
NOTE: If you don’t have access to fresh mushrooms, you may substitute three ounces of dried. Soak them in hot water for 30 minutes, pour through a fine-mesh strainer to remove all grit from the liquid, and rinse the mushrooms before chopping and using in the recipe. Save the liquid to add deep flavour to soups, sauces, grains and more.
One pound mixed mushrooms
Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Two cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)
Eight (six-inch) corn tortillas
Eight ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup your favourite salsa or hot sauce, for serving
Trim the mushrooms and remove the stems if you’re using a variety, such as shiitake, that have particularly tough stems. Save the stems to make mushroom or other vegetable broth, and chop the remaining mushrooms.
In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring so it does not burn. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have reduced a bit in size, about five minutes. Stir in the parsley, then scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.
Wipe the skillet clean and return to medium heat. Toast the corn tortillas, one at a time, for one minute on one side.
Working in batches as needed, put as many tortillas as will fit in the pan, and place a few pieces of cheese over just half of each tortilla, on the untoasted side. Scatter about two tablespoons of the mushroom mixture over the cheese. Fold the tortilla in half, covering the filling.
Cook until the tortillas are lightly charred and the cheese is melted, one to two minutes per side. Serve hot with your favourite salsa or hot sauce on the side.
Calories: 352; Total Fat: 18g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 36mg; Sodium: 565mg; Carbohydrates: 28g; Dietary Fibre: 4g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 20g.