Not just about the melted cheese
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
With a little imagination and some wholesome ingredients, the classic cheese-laden quesadilla can take on an entirely new persona. Using ingredients from shrimp to kimchi, these gourmet commestibles are anything but boring.
No question—quesadillas can be quick and easy to make and fun to eat. But quesadillas can be so much more than a cheese-bomb snack or appetizer. Spruce them up with vegetables and healthy proteins and you’re well on your way to an inspiring meal that is hearty enough for a family dinner. And don’t feel limited to just Mexican ingredients either! A quesadilla can be a wonderful vehicle for whatever combinations of ingredients your imagination can muster. Kids and kids-at-heart love quesadillas because they are perfect hand to mouth food. Healthy, savvy home cooks can relish the fact that when you include ingredients such as seasonal vegetables and fruits along with more subdued cheese portions, quesadillas can deliver a cache of important nutrients and antioxidants without the gooey calorie overload. Quesadillas can wear many hats. Start with these adventurous recipes that take an elegant twist for the better. Recipes
Tip: Flour tortillas are more pliable than corn tortillas, so they’re easier to fold once filled. Take cover: Covering the pan during the last part of cooking can help ensure the cheese melts and the filling heats through by the time the underside of the tortilla has become crispy. Hot stuff: When feeding a crowd, keep your prepared quesadillas warm in an oven heated to 200 F (95 C) while you prepare the rest. Slice of life: A round pizza cutter is an ideal way to cut your quesadillas into serving halves or quarters. But a large chef’s knife will also do. Leftover magic: Freshly made quesadillas will always be best, but you can make them ahead of time and reheat them in the oven, which will return some of the crispiness.
Quesadilla know-how Before you blister those tortillas, take heed of these tips on making a perfect quesadilla every time. Pan handling: Ye olde heavy cast iron skillet is well suited for making crispy quesadillas, but you can also get great results from other well-made pans such as stainless steel. You could even break out the panini press machine that makes cooking quesadillas a breeze for all around crispiness without the worry of flipping them. Cheese please: Beyond adding flavour, melted cheese serves to help hold the ingredients together so they don’t tumble out when eating. To keep calories in check, however, cap the cheese at 1 1/2 oz (43 g) for each quesadilla. Size it up: When making quesadillas with two tortillas, try those sized 7 to 8 in (18 to 20 cm). This size still offers plenty of room for fillings, but will do a better job at controlling calories compared to using larger tortillas up to 10 in (25.4 cm) in diameter. However, if using the one tortilla half-moon method you could get away with using a tortilla with a larger surface area. Oil slick: Flour tortillas tend to absorb a lot of oil and can become soggy and greasy instead of crispy. So at most, you only want to very lightly coat the bottom of the pan with oil or butter. If using a cast-iron skillet, try forgoing the oil altogether. Cook your quesadillas on medium heat to avoid burning the tortillas. Skip the flip: Flipping stuffed quesadillas can be a hazardous undertaking. Instead, employ the no-flip method outlined in these recipes in which the tortillas are crisped individually. Or go with a half-moon technique that is easier to flip than a quesadilla made with two tortillas. Simply spread your filling over half the tortilla, then fold the other half over the filling and flip the quesadilla with a thin spatula over on the fold when the underside has become crispy.