Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! In case you forgot to prepare a Mexican menu for this day, I am offering a quick and easy recipe that can be made in minutes!
Minutes to cook is what I seem to have these days as I put the final touches on the manuscript for my book before it is delivered to my publishers. I can't tell you how special these quiet cooking moments are to me. This is precious time when I get to relax and create in the warm atmosphere of my kitchen. Meals are simple but fresh dishes that can be prepared at the last minute and served to a famishing family.
Quesadillas are among the easiest meals you can make. The cheese is the queso that lends its name to these Mexican grilled cheese concoctions. I love the sweet and smoky flavors of roasted peppers. As you can see by the photo above, I prefer to set my peppers directly on a gas flame (you may use your outdoor grill too or your broiler). I turn them over the flame as their skins char. You will want the peppers to turn black but don't burn them; as soon as the skins blacken, rotate them again. Use tongs to hold and rotate the peppers. It's that simple. To peel them, place the charred peppers inside a covered container (or bag) for 10 minutes. The skin will be easy to remove. In a pinch, substitute with piquillo peppers (which are always roasted before preserving and have no acid, so they are always sweet and a great shortcut).
There is a trick to making crispy quesadillas without adding any fat. Cook them on a non stick surface (griddle or pan) and rotate constantly as they cook; this prevents those black and burnt spots that often ruin quesadillas and impart a bitter taste. So keep them moving. Instead of layering one whole tortilla over the other, I prefer to fold quesadillas in half. This prevents the filling from flying all over the place when it's flipped and makes cutting them into wedges a very neat proposal.
So go ahead, make yourself a michelada (recipe is a few posts back) and a nice quesadilla. Top it with my smoked paprika and cilantro crema, chopped green onions, and your favorite salsa and prepare to fiesta!
Roasted Red Pepper Quesadilla
8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
3 roasted bell peppers, peeled, seeded and sliced thinly
2 cooked Yukon potatoes, diced finely (1/4-inch cubes)
3/4 cup caramelized Vidalia onions (see recipe in Appetizers)
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Pimenton de la Vera (Spanish smoked paprika)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro (use stems too)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sliced or chopped green onions
In a bowl, combine pimientos, potatoes, onion, and cheese. Spread the mixture over one half of each tortilla; fold tortillas in half. Heat a pan or a griddle over medium heat and cook the quesadillas for 2-3 minutes per side (rotating them constantly so they don't burn), or until they turn golden and crispy. Repeat until all are done. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, lime, smoked paprika, and cilantro; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve hot, with dollops of the crema and a garnish of green onions. Serves 4.
©Copyright of Photographs and Text by Sandra Gutierrez, 2010. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article, recipe or photograph can be published, or used without explicit, written consent of author.