My Favorite Quesadilla

No, I don't think anyone needs a recipe for a quesadilla. All you need to do is melt cheese in a tortilla. You can make them in the microwave, under the broiler or in a skillet. (My roommate last year actually had a designated quesadilla maker.)  You can keep them cheese-only, fill them with extras or put all the fun stuff on top. To each his own, really.

But let me tell you about my own.

My favorite quesadilla starts with a hot cast iron pan. With a little olive oil, I cook sweet bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and diced jalapeno. Salt and pepper. I push that to the side and lay down a tortillla…ideally it is a Trader Joe's Truly Handmade tortilla. I add shredded Monterey Jack (not a ton) and put the vegetables on top to melt the cheese faster. When the cheese is gooey and the tortilla slightly crisp, I slide it on a plate, squeeze fresh lime juice all over and fill the quesadilla with cilantro before folding it in half. Depending on the day, I might also smother the whole thing with sour cream.
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So, no, you don't need a recipe for a quesadilla. But if you were looking for some inspiration, just gaze at that photo a little longer.

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Risotto Three Ways

Risotto had been on our list of things to make for some time, and a few months ago the slow-motion shots of a Venetian chef flipping risotto on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations finally compelled us to buy arborio rice.

Since then, we've had three very successful risotto endeavors.

Our first effort was a knockout taste-wise, but too ugly to stand alone in a blog post. (The internet can be cruel.) Then Sycamore chef Mike Odette let me borrow his risotto cookbook, which had great information and fun stories, along with delicious sounding recipes. A few notes:

  • “Risotto is a simple dish, with relatively few ingredients. Consequently, each element gets its share of the limelight and sparkles individually on your palate.” — ie. Use butter, homemade stock and real Italian cheese
  • Risotto doesn't like shortcuts. The stock must be added a cup at a time so it is slowly absorbed by each grain. “Continue the game of add, stir, and wait, until the rice is just slightly resistant to the bite.”
  • “Good raw materials. Simple cooking procedures. No unnecessary frills. That's what Italian cooking is all about.”

Before Michael left, we finished off the arborio rice with our highest quality risotto yet. Homemade stock, a whole stick of butter, saffron, shrimp and scallops, and real Parmesan Reggiano.

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Craig Cyr’s East Meets West Salad

I am sure this salad sets the record for most ingredients — steak, mushrooms, goat cheese, hard boiled eggs, pecans, bacon, sage, cilantro, chives, basil, lavender, honey, croutons and many others. But Craig Cyr’s point was to show off the great local products from Saturday morning’s farmer’s market. It worked. The executive chef

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and owner of The Wine Cellar & Bistro in Columbia put on a cooking demonstration using almost entirely fresh and local goods. He made the most elaborate salad I’ve ever seen, but it was one of the best I’ve tasted, too.

“The market this morning seemed to scream salad,” Cyr said. But with a slight chill in the air he decided to make a warm vinaigrette for a hearty lunch or dinner salad. The idea gradually came together at the market and in the kitchen, then continued to evolve as he prepared the dish in front of the crowd.

He put an Asian style marinade on the flank steak from Show Me Farms. Then he sautéed mushrooms in butter and white wine, and made a red wine vinaigrette with bacon and chives — very French. Thus, he dubbed the salad “East meets West.”

I loved that every bite was different from the previous. Sometimes you got a lion’s mane mushroom and lavender-scented pecan. Then it would be a bite of cilantro, bacon and egg. You’d get steak with goat cheese. Or spinach and a crouton. There were different textures, and the sweet, sour and savory balance was perfect.

Craig and Sarah Cyr, owners of The Wine Cellar & Bistro
Craig and Sarah Cyr, owners of The Wine Cellar & Bistro

I don’t know how much of each ingredient Cyr used, but I’ll go through the ingredients and process he went through. You can try to create something like it, or at least try some of the elements in a salad of your own.

Continue reading “Craig Cyr’s East Meets West Salad”