Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tex Mex Quesadillas and Cucumber Salad


When Jeremy and I were dating, we spent a lot of time at his parents house. We would eat dinner over there a couple nights a week and what I remember is lots and lots of quesadilla's. Before that time quesadilla's, for me anyway, were not considered a dinner. Maybe a lunch and a boring one at that. To me it meant cheese and a tortilla and not much appeal. But when we made them over at his parents house they would pack that tortilla full of any variety of different things and it became more like a sandwich. They were awesome and simple. They basically just threw in whatever they had on hand; cheese, chicken strips, diced onion, chopped tomato or avocado slices and salsa. They were always really, really good.

All that being said, after that chunk of time had passed and Jeremy and I got married and I fell more and more in love with cooking, we kind of left quesadilla's in the dust, until recently. You see, Jeremy started coming home for lunch from work recently and so I needed to have lunch stuff on hand. That sounds simple but I rarely ever have good lunch stuff on hand unless I have prepared for it. Some days I grab something while I'm out. Sometimes I just have a lean cuisine or leftovers or make tuna salad with crackers, you know usual stuff. But since Jeremy has been coming home and bringing his love for fresh and lighter lunch foods with him (think salads...everyday) I have had to get creative. I would love salads for lunch everyday too if I could eat out. For some reason salads at home are so much less satisfying then when you get them out. Anyone? I make a great side salad but they are not something I want to have for a main course, unless it is a taco salad because those are always good from home. When he first started to come home I made things like the taco salad mentioned above, and also a celery root salad with arugula and a half a sandwich. Then there was the eggplant parmigiana that was baked, not fried, with mixed baby greens. Ratatouille another day, and eggplant panini's on wheat pita with cambozola blue cheese and arugula. The problem was, it was getting expensive. I was basically making dinners for lunch, which is kinda how I roll if I'm going to make lunch, but I needed to tone it down a bit. Then I remembered the quesadilla's. My very favorite quesadilla has a lot of black beans, very little cheese, with lots of salsa,  avocado, cilantro and a dash of salt and garlic powder or garlic salt if you have it (salt is crucial!) all melted in a crisp whole wheat tortilla. It's so good and satisfying and makes the perfect lunch. Especially if you serve it along side a cucumber salad.


The cucumber salad makes it a good casual dinner option as well. The cucumbers are basically just tossed with lemon or lime juice, salt and chili powder. It is genuine Mexican and we used to get stuff like that at the swap meets in California when I was growing up. Sometimes the cucumbers would be combined with either jicama or mango and served in a white Styrofoam cup. My Mom used to make cucumbers like this except she would cut them up in rounds, spread them out on a plate and we would eat them as a snack.


A note about the quesadilla's- It seems ludicrous to write a recipe for quesadilla's but I think part of the reason why these taste to good is the ratios of ingredients. I put about as many beans to cheese and I use less cheese than usual. I think it tastes better with only enough cheese to hold it together, but you can use as much as you want. The same goes for the rest of the ingredients. You can also sprinkle a little taco seasoning over to spice the quesadilla up if you want.

Tex Mex Quesadilla's
makes 1 quesadilla 
serves 1-2

2 whole wheat tortillas
shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/2 cup black beans
3-4 spoonfuls of you favorite salsa
1/2 an avocado, sliced
a handful of cilantro, chopped (optional)
a good pinch of salt or garlic salt
garlic powder

Heat up a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and put one of the tortillas in it while it heats up. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese over the surface, then pile the rest of the ingredients on top and sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Place a second very thin layer of cheese on top so the top tortilla will have something to stick to.  Place another tortilla on top of the cheese. Give it a minute or two to heat through and for the bottom tortilla to crisp up, then press the top tortilla down with your hand so it stays together when you flip it. Flip it with a spatula and let it warm through and crisp up on the other side for a minute or two. Remove from the pan and let cool for one minute. Cut into 4 equal wedges

Cucumber Salad

1 hothouse or English cucumber
1/2 lemon 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

I cut my cucumber in half lengthwise then I take a spoon and scrape out all of the seeds. Then I slice the cucumber halves across to make half moon shaped slices. Obviously you can cut them any way you want, this just makes for very pretty presentation. Toss the cucumber pieces with the lime juice, salt and chili powder. Let it sit out at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving. You can peel the cucumber if you wish, but I prefer to leave half of the skin on. I just take a peeler and peel every other half inch or so around.

I don't usually measure the cucumber salad ingredients, so use your own judgement. There needs to be enough salt or else you won't really taste the chili powder. Taste it and decide if you need more. I consider this a nice, well balanced, and flavorful lunch. My husband however doesn't seem to agree. He is in the kitchen right now as I type this, after just having finished his quesadilla, and making an arugula, watermelon and goat cheese salad with salt and a balsamic drizzle (balsamic, upon my urging when I saw he was about to put Italian on it...LOL) No doubt he is eating it for "more health". He is funny like that.