Tag Archives: tomatoes

Quesadillas Guillén with Fresh Tomato Salsa

5 May

Guillén is my friend from the yoga center… He lives in Mexico City, but tries as much as he can to come to Puerto Rico, Miami or New York to attend our yoga center activities and retreats.  Last time we saw each other was during our Xmas retreat, which took place last in New York.  We always have a great time together, talking about anything, but mostly about food.

Guillén loves to cook and to share his Mexican delicacies with all of us.  And as soon as we were given the “green light” to eat anything and everything after our retreat, he said he would make some quesadillas for breakfast for all of us.  Quesadillas for breakfast?!?!?  Well, that’s how the Mexicans in the DF (capital city) roll, and I am getting on this wagon for sure.

Something Guillén taught me this time around is that what I have showed you so far as quesadillas – Caprese Quesadillas, French Quesadillas, Quesadillas  Cordon Blue, etc. – are not really quesadillas according to true Mexican cuisiniers…  these are really called “sincronizadas”.  Guillén tells me that Quesadillas need to be FRIED, and made mainly with corn tortillas, while Sincronizadas are made with flour tortillas and are just heated on top of a skillet or on the oven to brown and melt the cheese, but are never fried.  To be honest… this was super enlightening for me because I had seen sincronizadas in Mexican menus during my last trip to Guadalajara and when I asked what was the difference from quesadillas, nobody was super clear on what it was… and according to Guillén is the FRYING part.

So… here is Guillén’s recipe for truly awesome quesadillas.  First, we start with organic sprouted corn tortillas.  These are not too easy to find here in Puerto Rico, but I have seen them in most every health food I have gone to in the US.  This is the brand Guillén prefers and they are truly delicious. 

Then the cheese to use…  Guillén prefers to use pepper jack cheese, but if you have a milder palate, try some Monterrey Jack cheese or even those cheddar/jack shredded cheese blends.  However, what’s traditionally Mexican is to slice the cheese from a block, not use the shredded kind.

And what makes these quesadillas really special is the Fresh Tomato Salsa… it’s super easy to make and it tastes soooooo authentic, I felt I was back in Guadalajara.  Guillén was nice enough to allow me to photograph him while making these quesadillas and salsa.  I have since tried it on my own and the results were extremely reliable.  Look for the freshest, ripest tomatoes you can find.  It really makes a difference… 



8 organic sprouted corn tortillas
16 slices of pepper jack cheese – we’ll use 2 slices per tortilla
Canola oil for shallow frying
2 medium tomatoes, cored
½ yellow onion, chopped finely
The juice of 1 lime
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tbs olive oil


We’ll make the Fresh Tomato Salsa first…

  1. In a non-stick skillet, place the tomatoes and roast them on top of the stove at medium-high heat.  Keep moving the tomatoes around to char the skin all over.  This will cook slightly the tomato flesh and impart a great smoky taste to the salsa.
  3. After the tomatoes are charred all over, take them off the skillet to cool off a bit.  I peel the tomatoes a bit and take off the very charred skin.  Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place them in a food processor or blender. Blend or process well for about 1 minute.
  4. Take the tomato blend out of the processor and into a bowl.  Add the choppped onion, lime juice, salt, pepper and olive oil. 
  5.  Set aside to allow the flavors to blend well together. 

Now we make the quesadillas… which is really no science at all to it.

  1. In a large skillet, add about ¼” of oil at medium-high heat… when the oil is hot enough for frying, add a tortilla and fry slightly on both sides.  Immediately, add two slices of cheese on one half of the tortilla and fold the other half over to create a half moon.  Fry on both sides until the tortilla is slightly golden brown and the cheese has melted.
  3. Drain the quesadilla onto a plate covered with paper towel.
  4. When the quesadilla has cooled off slightly enough to handle, open it up a bit and drizzle about a tablespoon of salsa inside the quesadilla.


And that’s it… you could serve these with a nice salad on the side and some sour cream on top.  But believe me, these are perfect just like this.

Soy Picadillo

18 Jul

When I decided to become a vegetarian, I personally made a conscious decision that I did not want to start to eat things that resembled the meat products I was used to eating before.  For some reason, I thought that would not help me modify the way I thought about a plate of food.

People always think of a plate of foods in the terms of – animal protein, starchy and vegetable side dishes, as opposed to looking at a rice dish or a veggie gratin as their main course accompanied by a salad.  That’s why many meat-eaters always ask us the tired question… “You’re a vegetarian??? Then, what do you eat???”

Because of this I consciously decided to keep soy products at a minimum when I first made the decision to become vegetarian.  But soy products are good and have a very useful role within vegetarian cooking.  One of them is textured soy crumbles.  One of my pet peeves is when people call it “soy meat” or “carne de soya”, arrrrgh!!!!  The correct name is textured soy protein or, in Spanish, “protein de soya”.  It’s not meat, so why even mention it in the name??

Textured soy protein is sold in bulk at most health food stores and it resembles cereal – a bit like Grapenuts, I think.  It comes in a variety from light to dark and from medium to even little cubes.  I particularly like the medium ground, the lighter the better.  Here’s a picture of the one I refer to, but a bit darker in color than what I usually prefer, but it still works for our purposes.

When cooked, textured soy protein takes on the characteristics of ground meat.  And just like any meat product, the key is in the seasonings.  If not seasoned well, that’s when vegetarian cooking starts getting a bad rep.  But seasoned well, it can even fool the biggest meat-eater out there…. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen.

Picadillo is the Cuban/Latin terminology for ground meat in a tomato sauce.  It’s super versatile – to eat on top of rice, to use in a lasagna, to use as the filling for alcapurrias or pasteles, to use inside a pastelón… you name it!!!  So here I’ll show you my version of Soy Picadillo… a great basic to have in your vegetarian arsenal…

SOY PICADILLO – Revised on 01/31/2013

2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs sofrito
½ of a vegetable bouillon cube with sea salt
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup textured soy protein
1 15oz jar of stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 tbs tomato paste
¼ cup ketchup
2 bay leaves
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire powder sauce
1 tsp Herbamare seasoning
¼ cup green olives (optional)
2 roasted sweet bell peppers (optional)
2 tbs of capers (optional)
Kosher salt to taste
  1. First, we start by hydrating the soy protein.  Soak the crumbles in a medium-sized bowl and cover with filtered water.  Soak for about 20 minutes, until the crumbles are soft to the touch.
  2. After the 20 minutes are up, drain the soy crumbles using a colander, rinse with new running water and squeeze dry as much as possible, just like you do to frozen spinach when you defrost it.  Set aside.  The soy will smell a lot like cereal at this point… do not get discouraged.  This will all change once we cook it with all our seasonings.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil, sofrito, the bouillon cube and the chopped onion.  Sautee for a few minutes until the onion softens a bit.  Add salt to season the onions and a bit of pepper if you fancy.
  4. Add the drained soy crumbles to the pot.  You could possibly add a little stream of olive oil to this to prevent the soy to stick to the bottom and sides of the pan.  Remember, soy does not contain fat.  To this, add the stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, ketchup, bay leaves, Worcestershire powder and Herbamare seasoning.  If you’re adding the olives, capers or sweet peppers… this is the time to add them.  Check the sauce level…  you should have a fair amount of liquid that will become a sauce, if you feel the mix is a bit dry, add a bit more water.
  5. Cover and let the mixture come to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 40-45 minutes.   You can just turn the heat off, and let it continue to cook with the residual heat for about 15 minutes more… besides, it’ll be too hot to handle immediately.

It’s ready… now you can use this Soy Picadillo in your favorite application.  I used it first as the filling for lasagna.


Ok…. I know some of you might be thinking… IS SHE NUTS?!?!?!  Worcestershire sauce traditionally has anchovies!!! How can she tell us to use it on a vegetarian dish!!!  Well, this Worcestershire powder from McCormick’s is a new discovery for me.  All the ingredients and seasonings of the traditional L&P sauce I used to buy before SANS the anchovies.  Now, be careful with the pepper, because this has pepper and you can over-pepper your dish.     Ever since I published this recipe originally it was brought to my attention that the “natural flavor” on the ingredient list might possibly be anchovies.  So I do not recommend using this product anymore.  I do use vegan Worcestershire Sauce available at health foods across the country.  Make sure you buy vegan to make sure there are indeed no anchovies in the product.

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