Wednesday, 13 April 2011

11 filling ideas for quesadillas

Quesadilla

While I've been updating my 'travel food stories' page,  I've found that I have a lot to say about Mexican food. I really didn't appreciate it properly until I came to live in North America where it is as much a part of the culture in Canada and the US as Fish and Chips is to the UK. Even so, there are a lack of authentic Mexican restaurants in Vancouver, as confirmed to me by my Mexican students, but this is improving with the street cart scene.

Mexican - Korean taco from Roaming Dragon

I wrote a basic Mexican Food 101 article which I will share here along with 11 ideas for filling those quesadillas and basic instructions on how to make them. Please check out the actual travel story page at the link above to read my thoughts on the food of the other places I've visited.

Burrito plate from Arturo's Mexican Food

Mexican Food 101 (very basic)

The staple of Mexican food is corn and beans. Corn can be eaten fresh from the cob or cooked, steamed or boiled and rubbed with butter, chili powder, salt and lime, but it is also an important component. Ground to make Masa, a flour, it can be used for all sorts of dishes such as Tamales, Tortillas and Gorditas.


Mini pulled pork burrito from Arturo's Mexican to go, Vancouver
Tamales are a dough made from Masa, often filled with meat stews or cheese, then wrapped in corn husk leaves and boiled or steamed. They are served unwrapped either plain or covered in a sauce to complement the filling, for example, green mole sauce.
 

Gorditas are a Mexican pasty, made from Masa dough, they are filled with a variety of fillings including chicken stew or shredded beef. 



Other Mexican staple ingredients include: squash, peppers, chilies, oregano, epazote, cinnamon, cocoa, chipotle, onion and garlic. Rice is also an important component as is Frijoles, or refried beans. This is typically a dish made from Pinto, red or black beans, soaked overnight or cooked from dry. They are stewed for a long time until soft and then mashed to form a semi-smooth consistency. This paste is then baked in lard or oil and seasoned with spices and salt. Served as a side dish or used to fill a Burrito.


Enchiladas is a word heard here very frequently. Extremely popular, they are corn or flour tortillas wrapped around a variety of fillings such as cheese, beans or meats and then covered in a chili pepper sauce. Sometimes they are covered in Mole sauce, (an incredibly complex and deeply flavoured sauce), in which case they are known as Enmoladas.

An example of Fusion. Mexican flavours with South East Asian ingredients


Tortas are Mexican sandwiches which are sold in speciality shops here and most food malls. I particularly enjoy these because of the contrast between the crusty, flour bread roll and the dizzying array of fillings available such as Chorizo sausage with cheese, marinated steak and bacon with scrambled egg. 

Mexican cuisine has become popular and well loved throughout the world. Fresh, bright, lively flavours mix with starchy elements such as bread, rice and beans. hearty and filling, it seems to encompass comfort food and hits all the right buttons in a meal. The tortilla and taco have become a staple for many other cuisines due to their incredible versatility. The only limitation for the filling combinations is your own imagination, and while, perhaps not authentic, you will be forgiven. Mexican people are fantastic like that.

11 Quesadilla or taco filling ideas.

Basics:
You need 2 tortillas and some kind of cheese, along with your other fillings. The cheese acts as a binder when you grill (broil) or fry the quesadilla, so you can cut it into wedges without it falling apart. You can use any cheese you like such as cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella or Swiss cheese. I've given some suggestions but feel free to use whatever you prefer.

Place one tortilla on a baking dish or plate and cover with the sauce, (if using) then the cheese, making sure it reaches the edges. Fill with the rest of the ingredients and then top with more cheese. Place the second tortilla on top and either place under the grill or in a frying pan with a little oil. When the top of the tortilla is golden brown and crispy, you need to turn it over. 

If you are using a frying pan, place a plate on top of the tortilla and quickly turn everything over (including the pan). Take the pan away and you should have the bottom tortilla now on the top. Now, Put the plate on top and turn again so that the uncooked tortilla is on the bottom, slide this into the pan to cook. This is to ensure none of your filling falls out.

If you are using a broiler, use the same method to flip the tortilla over and simply slide the uncooked tortilla back into the baking pan and back under the grill (broiler). Protect your hands by wearing gloves while you do this.
The usual accompaniment is sour cream and salsa, but you can vary this to whatever you like, maybe add a little mint sauce to the sour cream for lamb, for example, or use a mild mustard for sausage or pork or even apple sauce.

1.  Grated Monterey Jack, salsa, black olives and basil leaves.

2.  Grated Mozarella, refried beans, sliced cooked Chorizo or sausage and dried oregano.

3. Grated cheddar, grilled mushrooms, crispy fried bacon, fried egg and shredded bell pepper.

4. Strips of cooked chicken, pesto, Swiss cheese and pine nuts.

5. Cream cheese, salmon, capers and slivers of red onion.

6. Ground beef fried with onions, salt and chili pepper until crispy and well browned, Parmesan and sliced tomatoes. You may need an extra 'binder' for this one such as mustard or tomato paste.

7. Ricotta, fried zucchini slices and blossoms, asparagus tips and oregano.

8. Slices of cooked lamb, feta cheese, black olives, mint leaves and onions.

9. Shredded pork shoulder or beef brisket, barbecue sauce, finely shredded carrot, apple and radish salad, blue cheese.

10. Fried or broiled shrimp, avocado, chili pepper, Monterey Jack.

11. (An homage to Wales) Caerphilly cheese, sauteed leeks, thinly sliced red onion and sliced walnuts.
 

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