Quesadilla Recipe

In the early 15th century, it was thought that corn or "maize" had miraculous medicinal value. Our Latin American friends had to come up with a completely different word when puzzles involving finding one's way from start to finish around a grid made an appearance in the 16th century, but I digress.

When a Mayan was injured by a large bison, it was commonplace to wrap a sheet of ground corn around the injury. It was later that the discovery was made that the makeshift bandage didn't work very well, and the injured person was better off eating the tortilla. Soon it was also discovered that the tortilla would taste better if filled with vegetables, bison and cheese. Now you don't want to read the rest of the recipe, do you? Well, I'll make it up to you. Read on, my friend.

Here's what you need to make some "muy excellente" Quesadillas:
At least 2 tortillas (big ol' flour tortillas are best for a "classic" taste)
Cheese (cheddar, jack, pepper jack, swiss, pretty much any type except head)
Meat (optional, but this makes it a meal instead of a side-dish - use any leftover already COOKED meat)
Vegetables (Bell pepper, onion are MANDATORY; other veggies optional)
Salsa or Hot Sauce

Shopping tips: Let's face it, Costco is marvelous. You can get pretty much all the ingredients at Costco. Unfortunately, you have to buy in bulk, so you'll have Quesadillas for the next two years (less if it's a leap year or you're in Arizona). But that's a good thing, because these are good! Get the larger of the two sizes of flour tortillas. Costco's Mexican four cheese blend is great. Get that too. Get the Maui Sweet Onions. Those little cute red/orange/yellow sweet peppers are wonderful, if you can find them in that giant walk-in refrigerator they have in the back. Pick some of those up too. Bell Peppers, gotta have them too. If you want, you can get the 55 gallon drum of hot sauce too. Note: Trader Joes also has marvelous tortillas, they're thinner and lower in fat and calories and actually cheaper than Costco! These are my favorites now, but get some tortillas.

Now let's prepare the ingredients. Chop up your peppers and onions. Size matters here, as you are making filling for something that's going to be squished. Small is good. I recommend that you chop 'em up to about the size of a Times New Roman 24-point letter "B". Arial is OK too, but I find the serifs add more surface area, yielding more flavor goodness.

The meat should be COOKED. You're not cooking the meat in this recipe, you're just warming it up. Chicken is good (Costco rotisserie chicken, pulled off the bone is GREAT), beef is good. Fish is not so good in this recipe. Tofu is not meat - go without meat or tofu if you're even considering tofu in your quesadilla. Your meat should be about the same size as the chopped veggies. You don't want big chunks as we need the flavors to combine and complement each other.

The cheese should already be shredded or sliced thin. Size doesn't matter as much as the cheese will melt in the Quesadilla press. Did you forget you had it on? Hopefully the circuit breaker hasn't blown. Now for the fun part: assembly!

The most important thing here is the order in which you assemble these quesadillas. Read this next part carefully! Center tortilla 1 On the quesadilla press (or griddle). This is the bottom - very important that you select a tortilla without holes, uniform in texture and thickness. Trust me, you'll be sorry if you choose a holey tortilla. I know you're excited to use tortilla 2, but if you do that now, your quesadilla will be wholly tortilla. Now it's time for the innards of the quesadilla. Holy tortilla, this is fun.

Start with your meat (optional - PETA members skip this part). Put some of the meat on tortilla 1. Spread it around so you get an even meat distribution, but use just a little. In fact, use less than you think you should use. Next add your venerable vegetables. Peppers and those sweet Maui onions. Mmmmmm good! Celery gives a nice crunch too, but the flavor isn't for everyone. Don't use squishy vegetables, as they'll get really squished when cooking. No potatoes, no squash, no broccoli, no carrots. I guess this isn't really health food, is it? Spread the vegetables around tortilla 1 in the same manner as the meat. Use less than you think you should use. Really.

Now sprinkle some hot sauce or salsa on what you have there. How hot do you want it? It's up to you, but as you get older you have less taste buds, so for grandpa, use more. For nephew Toby use less. For doggy Nesta use much less or arrange for carpets to be cleaned tomorrow.

The "Quesa" in quesadilla means cheese. So now add the cheese. Again, a conservative cheese distribution plan is necessary. For $9.95, you can request the official Howard CDP, or you can wing it now. Here's a hint...don't use too little or too much. I'm not really planning to sell a lot of the $9.95 CDPs, so suffice to say that applying cheese evenly is important, but applying the cheese after the meat and veggies is the true secret weapon. You see, the cheese will melt in the press, and you will find that as the cheese melts, a force called "gravity" takes over, and coats the other ingredients. I know this sounds technical, but just put up with the physics talk.

Lastly, don't forget to center tortilla 2 on top of the ingredients you've assembled. The press is a bear to clean if you forget the top tortilla! And yes, while perfecting the recipe with my intense work, I have forgotten to put the top tortilla on. So center tortilla 2 on your artwork, and close the lid of the press.

I hear you asking, "how do I know when the quesadilla is done?". Actually, I hear many voices, your question is just one of those voices. Anyway, when they're done is your personal preference. The best way to handle this is to monitor your quesadilla. Lift the lid after two minutes, see how it's doing. Is the cheese melting? Good! Do you like "crispy"? Leave it in the press longer.

When you pull the quesadilla out of the press, cut it up in sixths (the Salton press leaves nice little guidelines for you. You want to have exactly 6 equal pieces to avoid problems with jealousy. Serve on a nice japanese-looking square red and black dish (hey, that's how I serve them) and enjoy. May I suggest some two-buck Chuck to go with this dish, or a nice micro-brew from a local brewery.

Hope you enjoyed the recipe, and try my FRIED RICE or STIR FRY.
- Howard Daughters, [email protected] 

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