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.
It’s incredible when you have the opportunity to live outside your native country, how you turn more patriotic than the flag.
I developed this recipe as part of a special post for my friend Marixsa’s blog, Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn. She’s sharing a series of articles celebrating the Puerto Rican Parade in NYC under the moniker Abrazos Boricuas. She was gracious to invite me to share a bit of my experience living and experiencing the Puerto Rican Day Parade for the first time, 20 years ago!!! Can you believe it?!?!
If you want to read more about my story and the pride I feel about flaunting my “mancha de plátano”, please visit Mamá Boricua en Brooklyn. And to her readers who are visiting KarmaFree Cooking for the first time, we welcome you with open arms. Here I share many vegetarian recipes recipes that express my love for my beautiful Island, Puerto Rico. This is one of them… enjoy!
SWEET PLANTAIN CANOES FILLED WITH CREAMED SPINACH
4 sweet ripe plantains
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 oz of cream cheese
A splash of half & half or milk
A pinch of nutmeg
2 tbs of pine nuts
1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Bake the plantains in their own skin… cut a Little bit of the ends and you make a shallow slit on the inside of the plantain from one end to the other. Place in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper side to side and bake in a 350F for about 30 minutes.
- While the plantains cook, we prepare the filling… In a large skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil, the onions and garlic clove. Sweat slowly for the onions to cook and the garlic to infuse its flavor, without browning.
- When the onions are cooked and translucent, remove the Garlic clove and add the spinach in batches to the skillet. It might seem like too much, but the spinach will wilt down a lot. Cover the skillet for a few minutes to help the wilting process. Mix the spinach and the onions well to help the spinach wilt and for the flavors to meld together.
- Add the cream cheese in pieces to make it easier to melt with the spinach. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. You’ll end up with a creamy spinach mixture. If you feel the mixture is tight, add a splash of milk or half and half.
- When the plantains are cooked, take them out of their blackened skins and place in a baking dish all 4 plantains together side by side or in individual lasagna dishes or even shallow ramekins might work well too.
- Place the plantains with the natural curve to the top. If you made the slit to the skin previously, now make the slit slightly deeper to fill the plantain on the inside. Place ¼ of the spinach mixture over each plantain. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the plantains evenly and cover them all with the grated mozzarella cheese.
- Return the plantains to the oven for a few minutes at 350F to melt and brown the cheese a bit.
Enjoy these plantain canoes with a nice salad and rice with corn on the side.
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
Last week we had our 2nd KarmaFree Cooking class and our theme was Loving ourselves first thru our Food. Sometimes, we only cook nice things when we’re cooking for others. But why not cook something nice even if it’s just us in the house??
The recipes we shared are old and new KarmaFree Cooking recipes that work well made just for one person, for two or for a crowd. These are simple, quick and delicious recipes that work well to make just for you on a solo movie night at home and just the same are not much more effort making for a large dinner party.
Here was our class menu:
Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes over Brown Rice Pasta
Quinoa Pasta with Fresh Baby Spinach and Lemon Vinaigrette
Spinach Salad with Macerated Strawberries
Baked Sweet Plantains with Cinnamon and Vanilla
Poached Pears with Blue Cheese and Almond Praline
Even though these were all recipes we had shared in the blog before, it’s never the same reading and making them on your own as seeing how I make them, after I have made them over and over and over again. Your words… not mine.
The class is not only about sharing recipes and techniques. We also talked about alternative pastas… we talked about my favorite olive oils and vinegars. We also talked about microplanes and rasps to grate lemon zest and how I do not like to rinse pasta after I drain it. We also shared how the same ingredients for the Marinated Tomates can be used in a bruschetta as an appetizer or skewered to make for a fancier passed hors d’oeuvre.
I am so grateful for all of those who attended… we had a larger class this time around. Some repeats and some new students. I want to give a great shout out to Adriana from Great Food 360 who attended once again and contributed with the wonderful pictures. She rocks!!!
Again to my lovely assistants Angie and Mom… who help me with the little things that keep the class rolling smoothly.
Hope you can join us for the next installment… Late April. Mark your calendars – Recipes to celebrate Mom. I am already planning the menu.
After I came back from Peru, I decided to make some new potato recipes to celebrate my love for potatoes. Peru boasts to have over 1,000 potato varieties and had the chance to eat some of them. Something we noticed from the potatoes we had in Peru is the Peruvian potatoes seem to be denser and drier than potatoes in our neck of the woods.
We might not have such a wide variety, but we sure have available some tasty spuds – the russet being the most popular or ubiquitous of them all.
Ever since the trip I was brainstorming potato ideas and this one was a particular one I wanted to try… a combination of scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach. Two very rich traditionally considered side dishes, blended together to make one killer vegetarian main entrée.
POTATO SPINACH GRATIN WITH GOAT CHEESE
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ bag of baby spinach
1 cup heavy cream, divided
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbs butter, to grease baking dish
2 large russet potatoes
4 oz fresh goat cheese
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 350F.
- Butter the inside of a 8-by-6-by-2-inch (6-cup) baking dish.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the fresh baby spinach in batches of about 2 handfuls. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet for about a minute to help the spinach wilt and smother itself. Continue adding spinach in increments and smother it so it wilts. Season with salt and pepper after adding each batch of spinach.
- Add ½ cup of heavy cream and stir together with the onion and spinach mixture. Season with grated nutmeg and allow the cream to bubble and reduce to a creamy consistency. This will take about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool off a bit while you work with the potatoes.
- Wash the potatoes well and slice using a mandolin… please be careful and use the guard whenever you use a mandolin to slice anything. Place in a large bowl.
- Mix together the sliced potatoes with the creamed spinach, the ½ cup left of heavy cream, most of the crumbled goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the potato/spinach mixture to the buttered baking dish. It can be messy, but go in batches so you can accommodate the potatoes as flat as possible. Press down to smooth the potatoes and pour all the heavy cream left in the bowl. Place the remaining goat cheese crumbled over the top.
8. Bake for approximately 90 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender and the top is browned and bubbly.
9. Allow to set for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
I make this in my toaster oven. It makes enough for 2 people or for me to eat twice. If you wish to double the recipe, use a 10 x 15 baking dish, same cooking time…