If we lived somewhere like Spain, 7 pm would roll around, and we would have some tapas and not worry about a meal until, oh, 10. And I would have an out when I haven’t exactly planned dinner, or the day hasn’t gone as planned. Instead, I have quesadillas.
I consider quesadillas among the ultimate convenience foods, not just because they’re fast, but also because they’re a great excuse for using up little bits of leftovers; the hamburger no one ate, the deli meat that’s about to spoil, bits of vegetables, whatever. I made one of my favorite versions with left-over pulled pork mixed with a little barbecue sauce, some chopped apple and smoked gouda cheese. Really, they’re open for experiment. But if you plan to have these, as opposed to throwing them together in a starving panic, make a filling out of strips of roasted poblano peppers mixed with sauteed sliced onions.
No quesadilla of mine will ever, apparently, measure up to the ones that our afterschool babysitter used to make. This recipe, for frying them on the stove, uses her method, though. Depending on what else you’re eating with them, and how hungry you are plan on 1-2 quesadillas per person . I usually serve rice (preferably brown) and a vegetable (something dark and leafy, like broccoli rabe, Swiss chard or kale is nice) as side dishes.
7 O’Clock Quesadillas
Fajita-sized flour tortillas
Shredded cheese. A melty variety, that complements any other fillings you have. I often default to Monterey Jack.
Other fillings if you want
Grapeseed, canola or another relatively flavorless oil
Sour cream, salsa, chopped avocado or guacamole as condiments
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet that’s big enough to fit a tortilla laid flat. When the oil is hot, lay one tortilla flat in the pan (you’ll know the pan is hot enough because the tortilla will sizzle, but it shouldn’t be so hot that the oil pops). Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of cheese on the tortilla, and top with about 1/4 cup of any additional filling on one half of the tortilla. When the cheese has started to melt and the bottom of the tortilla is starting to turn brown and crisp, use a pair of tongs to grab one edge of the tortilla and fold it in half. Remove the folded quesadilla from the pan with the tongs and put it on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
Repeat until you have enough quesadillas for everyone. Watch the pan as you go, adding more oil if necessary and lowering the heat if the tortillas start to burn.
Put bowls of sour cream, salsa and chopped avocado or guacamole for people to use as condiments. If you have good tomatoes, and a little more time, you can whip up a batch of fresh salsa instead of opening a jar.
If you want to grill the quesadillas instead, use indirect heat, and make a sandwich out of two tortillas: put one on the grill, quickly top it with your fillings and put a second tortilla on top. When the bottom tortilla starts to get crisp (this happens quickly, so don’t leave it alone), flip it carefully with a spatula and tongs, and lightly crisp the other side. Slice it into wedges before serving.