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.
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.
My friend Mike offers us his classic gumbo recipe with okra, andouille and seafood. I wish I had gotten a chance to taste it, but the color of that roux is evidence enough that it must have been great.
This recipe was adapted from several in Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. This gumbo is a family favorite. It isn’t too spicy, has a delicious toasty, nutty complexity from the roux, and the okra keeps it from being too thin (the darker you make a roux, the less thickening power it has). It is, however, a definite time commitment. This is a recipe where you should have everything completely prepped and lain out before you start heating the oil for the roux.
Gumbo previously: Gumbo with Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp
Continue reading “Okra Gumbo with Sausage and Fish”
Call this my California comeback meal.
I cooked very differently in Argentina. I used almost exclusively Argentine products, except some spices I brought with me. I was cooking meals for me and only me, so I was less adventurous, plus my kitchen was less stocked. (Ask Marissa, who said she’d never seen a fridge of mine so empty.) And when I went out for meals, it was mostly for Argentine or Italian, nothing with much spice. So I looked forward to the flavors I’d return to in Los Angeles.
Cilantro, lime and chilies — one of my favorite combinations, common in Mexican and Indian cuisine — came together in two components of this fish. First, a salsa verde, which cooks with the fish, then a pineapple and roasted poblano salsa served on top.
Does it need both? Maybe not, but we had produce to use up, and the two salsas work together nicely. The tomatillo sauce keeps the fish moist while baking, and I loved the sweet, sour and spicy addition of chunky pineapple-poblano salsa.
We served the fish with cilantro rice, quesadillas and a salad with my cilantro-lime dressing (used before on an Ahi Tuna Tostada and Fiesta Quinoa). The meal was very California, and I liked it.
Continue reading “Salsa Verde Baked Cod with Pineapple-Poblano Salsa”
The great thing about empanadas is that anything goes. Whatever you have in the kitchen can be sealed in dough, then baked or fried. It's a fun way to play with flavor combinations.
I knew I wanted swiss chard and ricotta together. I had some shallots, so in those went. Some salt, pepper and lemon juice to bring out the taste of everything. I found the chard to be a little bitter still, so I diced some red bell pepper and added that for sweetness. It worked! Flavor and color balance with one addition.
even if you end up with a tasty but monochromatic empanada filling, it doesn't matter because it all gets wrapped up anyway. (I've been working on my empanada sealing technique. It's not quite there, but I have a few weeks left to master it before I leave Buenos Aires.)
Continue reading “Empanadas with Swiss Chard, Ricotta and Bell Pepper”
This dish started because I wanted to do something with polenta. I turned to Plate Online, which has recipes from many well-known chefs and restaurants. I saw a recipe for goat cheese polenta fries and another for soft polenta with jalapeños and bleu cheese. I had goat cheese in the fridge, and I don't care for bleu cheese unless it is with something really sweet, so I combined the two ideas.
Then I remembered I had black beans soaking in water already (As my friend Kat noted, of course that would be something I would do, start soaking dried beans one night for no particular reason).
I googled polenta and black beans and saw an idea to put a black bean salad on top of creamy polenta. So that was it, I bought a bell pepper and lime, then made do with everything else I already had.
The result was very satisfying. I loved the flavor of the polenta. The beans and bell pepper offered contrasting texture, and the guacamole was a cool balance to the spice of the jalapeños. I would have liked some fresh cilantro but the store didn't have it. I used a good amount of ground coriander in the salad, though.
All in all, a tasty dish, and a nice alternative to rice and beans.
Continue reading “Goat Cheese and Jalapeño Polenta with Black Bean Salad”
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With an eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper in the fridge the other day, I couldn't
help but think of ratatouille. Since I couldn't justify another trip to the market, canned tomato sauce would have to suffice to complete the traditional four-fecta of produce in the dish.
I wanted to make a meal of it, so I opented up the pantry. Hmm polenta…That sounds a big bowl of mush, unless…yes, I could make some firm squares and pan-fry the outsides. Althought I didn't have success in my first crisp polenta attempt this summer…
I've since found the proper 3-1 ratio of liquid to dry polenta, and I haven't had any similar fails. (I'll note that the polenta in that photo, while melted out of its square shapes, ended up with a most pleasant grill flavor.)
Serving an untraditional ratatouille with polenta, of all things, is a departure from the French spirit of honoring culinary tradition, but a Google search shows I'm not the first to have bastardized a classic in this way. Yet when it works so deliciously, why fight it?
Continue reading “Ratatouille and Polenta”