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.
Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’etendard sanglant est levé
Entendez vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces feroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils, nos compagnes!
That’s all I know about La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem.
But I do know that I have a secret love affair with anything French… last year, about this same time, I was in Paris for the 3rd time enjoying my first ever international vacation all by myself. It was a great experience and something I recommend anyone to try at least once in their life.
To celebrate… I would like to recap a few of my favorite French-inspired vegetarian remakes for all of you who might think French food can’t be made vegetarian and delicious and authentic at the same time…
Crepes can be made without eggs… and even without gluten.
You just need to be patient and buy the right ingredients.
Crepes for Lunch or Dinner
Fill them with Spinach, Potato and Broccoli or just plain Cheese… Crepes are France’s version of the sandwich.
Photo Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com
Crepes for Dessert
Fill them with macerated fruits or even a dulce de leche, sweet crepes are the gold standard of street-food decadence.
Even though I am not currently dating someone special… I still like to cook something nice, even if it’s just for myself.
After all, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate LOVE and there are many ways to express and celebrate love – love towards your parents, love towards your kids, love towards your siblings, love towards your pets, love towards your partner, love towards your neighbors, your family in general, your co-workers, your friends and most of all, LOVE TOWARDS YOURSELF. Because, if you don’t love yourself, how do you expect others to love you too???
Here are a few ideas I have cooked in the past to impress a few loved ones… hope you choose to make one to impress YOURSELF!!!
Cheese, Spinach and Mushroom Manicotti
Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes over Pasta
Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake
Korean Seasoned Tofu
Chame’s Spinach Salad with Figs and Blue Cheese
Poached Pears with Blue Cheese and Almond Praline
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico… but I am Cuban at heart.
To my friends in Puerto Rico… I am almost Cuban. To my family in Miami, I am 100% Puertorra. I live in both worlds simultaneously and to me, it’s all just part of being the daughter of a Puerto Rican mom and a Cuban Dad Kinda like “café con leche”.
Many of the flavors and foods I love so much, I learned from my Dad. He taught me to eat guava paste with cream cheese, croquetas, Medianoches and Cuban Sandwiches, rice with black beans, tamales en hoja and in cazuela, guava pastelillos, patelillitos de carne, frutabomba and mamey milkshakes… and yuca with Cuban mojo, amongst many other things.
Whenever I boil some viandas, the local way we refer to root vegetables and tubers, I like to eat them with a side of onions that taste like Cuban mojo. The reason I don’t go out and make mojo from scratch is because it takes a lot of olive oil for just me in one serving. So I came up with this simplified version that hits all the flavor notes of Cuban mojo in a simple, perfect for one person’s serving.
Cuban Mojo Onions
1 medium sized onion, it could be white or yellow, sliced to your desired preference
About 2tbs Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic
The juice of 1 lime
Salt and Pepper to taste
- In a small sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and the sliced onions. I like to slice them thick, as if you were making onion rings. Sauté them to soften them more than for them to acquire some color. So when the pan starts to sizzle, I usually turn down the heat level to medium. Add some salt and pepper to season and draw out the moisture and soften the onions.
- Peel the garlic cloves and mash them a bit with the side of your knife. Add them to the pan like that. The purpose is for the onions to get the garlicky flavor without having to do a lot of work. Stir everything together to continue to soften the onions and garlic together.
- When the onions have become soft, add the juice of the lime directly in the pan. It’ll sizzle… at this time, you can turn the heat off and leave in the pan. The onions will not brown after you add the lime juice and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Serve over boiled potatoes, yuca, malanga, yautía, taro root, or anything else you want to give some Cuban flair to. This is a very easy side dish that will leave you wanting more…
I will be honest… I learned this recipe from somewhere on the Internet. The thing is… I can’t remember where or who to give the credit to.
I made this recipe for the first time about 3 years ago when I was staying with my sister for the birth of my nephew, who turned 3 recently. I was craving eggplant… and I wanted an easy way to make it without frying it, which you all know is my favorite eggplant preparation. I did it at home in Puerto Rico and also at my sister’s after scoring a huge bag of eggplants at The Boys Farmer’s Market.
I vaguely remembered what I did the initial time I made it. So who knows, maybe I did came up with THIS version after all.
Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake
1 medium eggplant, find one as light as possible, peeled and diced
1 pint of grape tomatoes, divided, all cut in half
1 tbs of dried basil, I use freeze dried
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 ounces of goat cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, optional
Brown Rice Fettuccini, I use Tinkyada brand
- In an oven-proof dish place all the diced eggplant pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss all to combine well.
- Add over the eggplant half of the grape tomatoes that you’ve cut in half already. Leave aside the rest of the tomatoes.
- Sprinkle the dried basil over the tomatoes. Add the goat cheese inc crumbles over the tomatoes. Drizzle a final stream of olive oil over everything and a last sprinkle of salt and pepper to make sure everything is well seasoned.
4. Place in a 375F oven for about 40 minutes. Turn off the oven.
5. Boil water to make the pasta according to the package directions. I use Brown Rice pasta, but you can use your favorite brand/kind
6. Drain the pasta, return to the pot and add the eggplant bake. Mix well to combine. Add Parmesan cheese, if using. Add the fresh tomatoes you set aside earlier. This adds an element of freshness that contrasts really nice with the creaminess of the baked eggplant.
Serve with your favorite salad and baked plantains on the side… This is so easy to make ahead and just re-heat when you’re boiling the pasta. Easy dinner without a lot of tending to it.