A true Mexican quesadilla resembles a soft turnover made of filled masa, similar to an empanada, but the term has come to mean a dish that's closer to a basic grilled cheese sandwich. Even the experts agree that there is no one perfect way to eat a quesadilla, so don't be afraid to experiment with different fillings and sides.
Authentic quick quesadillas are made of an uncooked tortilla that's filled, folded over and then grilled on a hot griddle called a comal. Most quesadillas served in American restaurants tend to be made with a pair of tortillas stacked with a filling between them, grilled on both sides and then sliced into pizza-like wedges. Depending on the filling used, folded quesadillas are easier to pick up and eat with your fingers. They're also easier to turn, unless the filling is held together with a lot of cheese.
A breakfast quesadilla can be anything from huevos rancheros in a portable package to an exotic omelet meant to be savored slowly. The main trick is to make sure the scrambled eggs are cooked a bit dry to keep them from making the tortilla soggy. Another way to prevent sogginess is to spread the tortilla with refried beans before adding scrambled eggs and other ingredients, such as chorizo, pico de gallo or bacon -- which is not traditional, but adds a bit of smoky crunch. Cheese adds flavor and also helps keep fluffy scrambled eggs from falling apart. Use Chihuahua or Oaxacan cheese for authenticity, or shredded Monterey Jack, pepper jack, Colby or a combination if that's what you have on hand. Top the quesadilla with guacamole, sour cream and salsa for a little Tex-Mex flair.
Lunch or Dinner
Shredded beef, chicken or pork, or freshly grilled fish or shrimp all make delicious starting points for lunch or dinner quesadillas. Squash blossoms are a traditional quesadilla filling, but you can substitute almost any vegetable or combination of cooked vegetables if you prefer. Serve your quesadilla with Mexican rice and refried beans or a crisp, green salad for a complete meal.
Desserts and Snacks
Sweet quesadillas are not traditional in Mexican cooking, but they can be an effective way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Almost any type of fruit filling can be grilled in a folded tortilla, but use a very small amount of jam, jelly or preserves because they get runny as they heat up. Spread a flour tortilla with a paper-thin layer of red pepper jelly, top with sliced tart apples and sprinkle with a bit of crumbled goat cheese; fold it in half and grill it for a dessert or snack that's both tangy and sweet. Or spread a flour tortilla with a thin layer of peanut butter, add sliced bananas and grill it. Serve the wedges with a chocolate dipping sauce or top them with a scoop of vanilla ice crumb and crumbled candied bacon for a tasty, if very nontraditional, treat.
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