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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Quesadillas

Who doesn't love a good quesadilla?

I avoid ordering them in restaurants because they're made mostly of white flour and cheese. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of cheese, but I also want vegetables and protein. 

Made at home, I can add as many vegetables and as much protein as I like. This recipe calls for summer squash, scallions, black beans, aged cheddar and cilantro (perfect for Meatless Mondays).

You can use whatever you find fresh at the farmer's market or in your CSA. Creative combinations of vegetables, protein, cheese and fresh herbs can satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike: 
  • Spinach, mushrooms, crumbled tempeh, sheep's milk feta and thyme
  • Tomatoes, Swiss chard, shredded chicken, Parmesan and oregano
  • Red pepper, eggplant, ground lamb, goat cheese and basil
Home-made quesadillas are also healthier when made with whole grain tortillas. For this recipe I used Whole Grain Flour Tortillas from Trader Joe's:

Because each whole grain tortilla contains 5 grams of fiber and 
4 grams of protein, they'll have more favorable effects on blood sugar and insulin levels compared to white flour tortillas. 

(Diets high in refined carbohydrates like white flour and chronically elevated levels of blood sugar and insulin increase the risk for diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.)

I wanted to add a smoky heat to my quesadilla, so I added ground chipotle pepper (a smoked jalapeno). You can substitute a fresh chili pepper if you want (remove the seeds for a milder heat) or leave it out completely.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
1 medium summer squash, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground peppercorn to taste
Freshly ground dried chipotle pepper, to taste (optional)
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 cup cooked black beans
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 handful of fresh cilantro, or substitute parsley
4 whole grain tortillas
Plenty of shredded cheese
Salsa to serve
Organic whole milk plain yogurt to serve

Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the summer squash and season with sea salt and ground peppercorn. Sauté the squash until they are soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chipotle, scallion and black beans. Sauté for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and cilantro. Cook for one more minute, until the garlic becomes aromatic. Turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

In a clean, dry skillet over low heat, warm the tortillas briefly on each side. Pile the filling on half of each warm tortilla: shredded cheddar, the summer squash mixture, then more cheese. Fold the empty half over the filled half and fill the other tortillas. Place the quesadillas inside dry skillets over medium heat and cover. Warm them until the cheese is melted, about 2 or 3 minutes on each side. 

Cut each quesadilla in half and serve immediately with salsa and a dollop of whole milk yogurt, if desired.

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