The beauty of cooking a quesadilla is you can’t screw it up.
Like a good salad, just about whatever floats your boat can be sandwiched between two tortillas and melted together; however, the potential culinary combinations for this Tex-Mex staple goes way beyond taco meat and Velveeta.
Yes, the standard quesadilla fare typically includes meat, cheese, and an assortment of sides, usually sour cream, tomatoes, and guacamole. But limiting the ingredient list to this type of simplicity, though satisfying in its own right, denies an infinite amount of flavor options. Take stock of the contents of your refrigerator and get creative!
One of my favorite starting points in quesadilla creation is focusing on color, as well as flavor. Bright green provides a perfect cornerstone around which to begin building. Cilantro is the usual and obvious choice, but not the only option, as far as herbs go.
Although not typically considered a Mexican ingredient, basil is a perfect ingredient for quesadillas. The hearty and unique taste beautifully blends with melted cheese and adds a fresh surprise to an unsuspecting palate.
Pairing chopped basil with available kitchen staples, such as mushrooms and some left-over grilled chicken, creates a simple and satisfying meal, yet adds a touch of panache not usually associated with quesadillas. Adding a squeeze of citrus, such as lime, elevates the meal yet another level, providing one more opportunity for creativity and freshness.
A great ingredient to keep in the refrigerator is some type of Mexican cheese. Asadero is a great choice, as it melts beautifully. A jalapeno jack is one of my favorites as well. The kick from the pepper is familiar, but not overpowering.
And don’t limit yourself to flour tortillas. Most grocery stores now carry a wide range of flavor options, including spinach and sundried tomato. The colors, as well as the taste, can be fantastic.
I always spread a thin layer of butter to the pan-frying side of the tortilla, resulting in a perfectly crisp layer on the outside of the quesadilla. And a good rule of thumb when cooking your quesadilla is to keep the heat on medium-low, and to cook it slowly, similar to how you’d make a good grilled cheese sandwich. Don’t rush it, or you’ll end up with a burned exterior and a cold, undercooked filling.
Pairing your quesadilla with side of a salsa, whether it’s from a jar, or just some chopped tomato, pineapple or mango, completes the presentation. And a dollop of sour cream and wedge of lime always provide a complementary side.
So have fun and add what you love. When in doubt, pick a cheese, pick a color, and follow your favorite tastes. The result could be a masterpiece of beauty and taste.