Quesadillas, a cheese whiz

Posted: June 26, 2008

Quesadillas, Mexico's fun take on grilled cheese sandwiches, can be as simple or sophisticated as you want. The basic quesadilla is nothing more than cheese wrapped in a tortilla and heated until melted inside and crispy outside.

Add flavor, texture and nutrition with any number of ingredients - grilled chicken, fish, skirt steak, shrimp or lobster; avocado or guacamole; cooked or refried beans; corn, caramelized onions or tomatoes. Monterey jack and Cheddar are standard, but also consider goat cheese, mascarpone, manchego or brie.

Assembly is easy: Lay the tortilla flat, place the filling on one half and fold the other half over it. Press lightly to seal. Cook four to five minutes per side over medium heat in a saute pan or one to two minutes per side on a grill over indirect heat.

Here are more tips:

Use flour rather than corn tortillas; they're easier to fold.

Use thinly sliced rather than shredded cheese. It melts more evenly and won't fall out when you flip.

Don't overstuff. Too much cheese and it oozes out; too many ingredients and you can't seal the quesadilla.

You can use two tortillas: Place one in the skillet, add the filling and top with the second tortilla. Cook two or three minutes, flip and cook the other side.

You can assemble quesadillas up to eight hours before cooking and refrigerate them, covered.


Grilled Chicken & Corn Quesadillas

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large red onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 boneless chicken breast halves, grilled and torn into strips

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

4 ounces thinly sliced Monterey jack or Cheddar cheese

3 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup favorite salsa

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions and corn 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in chicken, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

2. Place tortillas on a work surface. Layer a quarter of the sliced cheese on one half of each tortilla. Top with chicken mixture, goat cheese and cilantro, dividing evenly. Fold tortillas closed and press lightly to seal.

3. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Cook quesadillas one at a time, 4 to 5 minutes per side, until cheese is melted and tortilla crisp. Place finished ones on a cookie sheet in the oven to keep warm. Slice each quesadilla in half, and plate with 1 tablespoon sour cream and 2 tablespoons salsa.

- From Carole Kotkin, Ocean Reef Club cooking school,

Key Largo, Fla.

Per serving: 496 calories, 36 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 24 grams fat, 94 milligrams cholesterol, 920 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber

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