Say Cheese- Creative Quesadillas Have Arrived

Goat Cheese Quesadillas Stuffed with Mushrooms & Mint

“In the beginning, there was grilled cheese, and it was good. How could it not be — creamy melted cheese, bread crisped in butter? And then, of course, came the panini, once a simple Italian snack bar staple, turned seemingly ubiquitous. Now it looks like it may be the quesadilla’s turn. And, really, the only thing to be said is: It’s about time.”

These are the wry words of Russ Parsons, and they cheerfully greeted my morning tea and me today. CLICK here to read his entire article. 

I hadn’t really considered that a quasi queso revolution was coming. I should have seen the signs though. Because quesadillas have been in my radar and my repertoire for years. I am glad to hear that they are throwing off the cheddar ties that bind them and finally coming out of the shadows of shame.

I say this because there is a possibility that I may be inadvertently (partially) responsible for the rejuvenation of what Russ Parsons referred to as a “dumbed-down sandwich” this morning. Because I have always known that quesadillas could be creative. I just never knew you needed a recipe, or even a plan!

corn tortillaStill, despite my acquaintance with quesadillas– I have to admit that I have always considered them “desert food”. To me they are a lazy, patio friendly way to make the most of Friday & Saturday night leftovers during my weekends in Palm Springs. I have a way with leftovers. I hate wasting food, so Sunday lunches usually fall under my control. Because nobody can clean out a refrigerator like I can. That’s how my quesadillas got to be so creative. It wasn’t by design so much as necessity. Palm Springs is not the place to leave half-eaten food laying around in 100-degree weather for weeks on end.

My versions are usually gentrified, anglo-ized amalgamations of whatever semi-Mexican flavors happen to be gracing whomever’s refrigerator I happen to be raiding. Because I rarely approach the dish with any sort of plan. Cheese is the only constant.

But Russ Parsons’ column this morning got me to re-evaluate my relationship with this cheesy staple. Because honestly I got started serving quesadillas on Sundays mostly as a conduit for the inventive salsas I enjoy making for my beer-swilling, sun-tanning, desert-worshipping friends whose main goal is making sure that Sunday lasts as long as possible. In fact I put most of my energies into the topping for my quesadillas, not the stuffing.

So when I saw this recipe from Russ Parsons this morning I was a little bit shocked. Good shocked– but shocked nonetheless. I had never considered that there was such a thing as a quesadilla recipe! I was so dumbfounded by my dumbness that I decided to take action. I made his Quesadillas Stuffed with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese for lunch today. I followed his recipe, word for word and recreated it here. It was crazy good.

I am not saying that I will quit winging it when it comes to my desert versions, but I can promise you this will indeed make me think more like a cook when I am combining ingredients for another sunny Sunday “dumbed-down sandwich”!

Quesadillas Stuffed with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 lb sliced or quartered mushrooms
  • 1 t salt
  • 1⁄4 c shallots, minced
  • 1 T fresh mint, chopped
  • 1⁄4 c fresh goat cheese
  • 1⁄2 lb low-moisture mozzarella, cut in small dice
  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 12 corn tortillas

mushroom, goat cheese & mint quesadillaHeat the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has stopped foaming and bubbling, add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have given up their moisture, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with shallots and cook until the shallots have softened, the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms are quite tender, about 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the mint and the goat cheese.

Heat the oil on a griddle over medium heat; use a spatula to distribute it so the surface is evenly covered. If you don’t have a large griddle, you can use a skillet, but you’ll have to cook the quesadillas in more than one batch. Add the tortillas and cook on one side until they have softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip them to the other side and spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture in the center. Sprinkle over some of the diced mozzarella and use a spatula to fold the tortilla in half around the filling.

Cook until the tortilla begins to brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then flip onto the other side and cook until the tortilla browns on that side and the mozzarella is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes more. If some of the melting cheese oozes onto the griddle, that’s even better. Repeat if necessary to use up all of the tortillas and filling.

Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 250-degree oven until all of the quesadillas have been made.


Greg Henry

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