I went to a very well-known Mexican restaurant that just opened in Puerto Rico… one that has many locations in cities around the US, but apparently according to the hard-core fan base, it’s not a chain restaurant. Well… back to my experience, the thing was, I was underwhelmed. After all the fanfare of this restaurant opening in PR and having friends telling me such “wonderful” things about it, I was not impressed. My net takeaway was – I can make better Mexican food at home!
This is how these quesadillas came about… Why make quesadillas with only 1 cheese, or only one ingredient for that matter? And newsflash to all the “fancy schmancy” restaurants out there, quesadillas can be made with something other than just chicken.
Inspired by the fried quesadillas of Guadalajara, here is my take on a great vegetarian option for lunch on even dinner…
SPINACH FRIED QUESADILLA
3 sprouted corn tortillas
1 cup baby fresh spinach – what you can fit in a 1 cup measuring cup
1 cup grated mozzarella or Italian blend cheeses
2 ounces of goat cheese – cream cheese will do in a pinch
Freshly grated Black Pepper
You’ll be able to make 2 quesadillas at a time using a large skillet, but you need to make them in staggered steps. I consider 3 quesadillas is a good serving portion for one, but if you think you are better off with 4 quesadillas, just add one more tortilla and adjust the rest of the ingredients. This is more a method than a recipe…
- In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and place one tortilla… flip it over on both sides so there’s some of the olive oil on both sides.
- Place some of the shredded cheese on top of the tortilla. Now place a few fresh baby spinach leaves on top of the cheese. You can rip them into smaller pieces with your hands if you’d like. Season the spinach with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place a few pieces of goat cheese over spinach.
- Carefully, fold tortilla in half so you end up with a half moon filled with spinach and cheese. At first it will seem as if there is too much spinach for the small tortilla, but the heat from the skillet will wilt the spinach and it will reduce the bulk considerably.
- Flip the tortilla a few times so that it gets golden brown on both sides.
While one quesadilla is getting golden brown to the side of the pan, you can use the remaining space to heat up tortilla #2. And start the process all over again.
I have a bunch of virtual friends and we decided at the end of last year to start sharing amongst each other the things we love to eat from the places we live. These virtual friends are spread all over the US and the world – Colorado, Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, of course me in Puerto Rico and even one in Italy and another one in can’t remember if she’s in Iceland, Vietnam or Australia. That girl has me confused…
On our first round of our Foodie Exchange I got paired up the KATY, the only other vegetarian in our group. Can you believe our luck??? Well, they say there are no coincidences in life. It was up to the Universe that we would get to share what we love about our region. Katy lives in Maryland, close to DC and Baltimore… but she’s a lover of everything in her region including Pennsylvania where most mushrooms in the US are grown.
This is what I received from Katy…
But for the purposes of this post, we’ll concentrate on the baggie of dried morel mushrooms right there. Katy told me these are her favorites and that she preferred to send them fresh but was unable to locate them. So in its place she sent me these with instructions on her favorite way to eat them – sautéed with onions and thyme over toast. This is Katy’s favorite snack and she urged me to try it.
Katy is part of our Foodie Group for a reason… these toasts are amazing!!! I loved the earthiness of the morel mushrooms and how easy they are to put together. A great vegetarian snack or light lunch suitable for any foodie out there.
MOREL MUSHROOM TOASTS
½ bag of dried morel mushrooms
½ medium onion, sliced thinly
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 small garlic clove, smashed
Salt and pepper to taste
A whole wheat ciabatta roll, sliced in half
- Bring a small saucepot with water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, add the dried morel mushrooms to the water, cover and turn off the stove. Allow the mushrooms to reconstitute in that hot water for about 30 minutes.
- After the mushrooms are softened again, strain the mushrooms over a fine sieve reserving the liquid for another recipe.
- Take the drained mushrooms and pat the dry a bit. I cut the larger ones in half, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
- In a small skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, the onions and the smashed garlic clove. Sautee them lightly for a few minutes. Add the softened morels and the thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook everything together until the mushrooms have dried out a bit and looked cooked and “kinda alive”. Discard the pieces of garlic and set aside.
5. While the mushroom cook, drizzle some olive oil over the bread halves and toast in toaster oven. Slather some cream cheese or other spreadable cheese of your choice and place the morels and onions over the toasts with cheese.
This is a great snack or even a light lunch served with a simple salad on the side. Thanks Katy for introducing me to morel mushrooms… I had eaten them in restaurants, but never made them at home. And now, this has also become one of MY favorites, thanks to you.
As a New Year’s resolution I vowed to eat healthier… and making sure I eat my servings of fruit a day is certainly part of it.
I love the Tropical Cream Supreme combination from the Orange Juluis. To be honest, I don’t even know if this fast food joint still exists out there. Possibly I should Google it. But I know these flavors are part of my growing up. But sometimes, we need to change things up…
So here is my updated version of the Tropical Creme Supreme and it’s become my new favorite breakfast smoothie.
UPDATED TROPICAL CREAM SUPREME BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE
¼ cup frozen mango
½ cup plain yogurt
1 cup passion fruit juice
A squirt of agave nectar or honey
1 tbs of ground flaxseed
- Blend all the ingredients in your blender or Magic Bullet.
- Serve cold.
In Puerto Rico, these pumpkin fritters are called “barriguitas de vieja” or “old lady bellies”… I just think that name is a tad discriminatory. Who said all old ladies bellies are sweet and wrinkly??? I am sure some old bellies out there are not sweet… LOL!!!!! I am so lame, I laugh at my own jokes…
Enjoy these, which are super delicious regardless of my bad jokes.
PUERTO RICAN PUMPKIN FRITTERS
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A few grates of fresh nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp egg replacer + 2 tbs water
Canola Oil for frying
- First we steam the pumpkins to make the puree… I just peel and cut some pumpkin pieces and place them in a shallow pan that has a lid. I add about ½ inch of water and some kosher salt. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as you hear the water inside boiling, turn down the heat and allow the steam inside cook the pumpkins for about 10-15 minutes. Check the pumpkins at about 10 minutes… if they’re not completely done, just cover again, wait about 1 minute and turn off the heat and leave there uncovered for some 10-15 minutes more. They’ll be done by then.
- I just take the pumpkin pieces out into a bowl and mash… if you feel they’re too stringy, you can certainly pass the mashed pumpkin thru a sieve. But I don’t usually do that… I don’t find it’s necessary. You can certainly do all this steaming and mashing ahead. I did it the night before to use the mashed pumpkin for this recipe and for a pumpkin cheesecake I was making too.
- In a small bowl, mix the egg replacer with the water. Stir vigorously or whisk and set aside.
- Now we assemble the batter… in a large bowl mix together all the ingredients, including the egg replacer mix. I use my hands to mix well and almost knead the recipe. I tried using a spoon or spatula and it does not work well.
5. In a frying pan add about 1 inch oil to fry these fritters over medium-high heat… wait until the oil has reached temperature before adding the first one. I usually check if the oil is ready by inserting the back side of a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil bubbles around it, the oil is ready.
6. Using 2 spoons create little mounds of batter to fry. My mom likes to spread them a bit once they’re in the pan so they’re not too thick and they fry faster. Once they’re golden brown on one side, flip them over to fry on the other side.
7. Once they’re cooked and golden brown on both sides, take them out and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
When they’ve cooled off a bit, enjoy one after the other. You’ll see they’re addictive…
I get these cravings sometimes… it could be anything, but lately it’s been of Mexican food. And not always I can get to Los Pioneros to get a fix of Tacos de Nopales. So I have to make do at home…
The easiest fix is to make quesadillas. A tortilla and cheese glorified into something special… When I visited Guadalajara and when I once traveled to NYC with my friend Guillén, I learned the best quesadillas need to be fried.
But I am trying to watch what I eat, because even when you’re vegetarian, I can add up some unwanted pounds. So I devised a way to get the feel and taste of the fried quesadilla without using lots and lots of oil.
Here’s how I make them…
4 white corn tortillas, organic preferable
8-12 thin slices of pepper jack cheese
- Brush tortillas with a little olive oil… as little as possible. I stack the tortillas and lightly oil the first one on top on one side, flip it and oil on the other side. This will slightly oil the second tortilla… then flip the second tortilla and so on until all tortillas are slightly oiled on both sides.
2. Warm a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. You can do this with a small skillet, but it’s easier to make these quesadillas 2 at a time if you have the larger skillet. Place 2 tortillas side by side. They will overlap slightly… but don’t worry about that. Warm them on both sides for them to become pliable and somewhat charred on both sides. They will shrink a little…
3. When tortillas have been warmed up on both sides, place 2- 3 cheese slices on one half of tortilla and fold over the side without cheese to create a half circle/half moon. Flatten the top of the tortilla with a spatula a bit to allow the top side of the tortilla to fuse to the cheese inside. Flip once or twice until both sides are toasted/charred a bit and the cheese has melted completely.
4. Set aside on a plate to allow to cool a bit before serving. Repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese.
These are quesadillas to eat with your hands… not with a fork and knife. The corn tortilla is heartier and it will make it challenging to cut them up. So bite into them and enjoy.
Serve them with a side salad of tomato and avocado, guacamole or a fresh tomato salsa.