October 30, 2014

THE TOP FIVE | Some Next-Level Quesadillas

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Life after meal swipes isn’t always the easiest. While I still long for the days when my Cornell I.D. meant a sizable amount of food at any dining hall, the change has forced me to get creative while cooking. During these trying times, one of my go-to quick fixes is the quesadilla, a simple Hispanic dish that consists primarily of two key ingredients, cheese and tortillas, that when heated together on a stovetop becomes a warm and tasty snack, lunch or dinner. However, while I prize the basic quesadilla for its short cook time and simplicity, there’s only so many I can eat. In order to spice things up, I started to get creative with the variations of quesadillas I made. Not all of them have been successful, but my top five are definite winners:

1. The Basic Spicy Quesadilla is the easiest variation from this list, and was first served to me by my friend after a night out, leaving me in quesadilla bliss. The quesadilla is made by first lightly spreading butter on the outside of a large flour tortilla, which is then place in a skillet on low heat. I then add a Mexican blend cheese, but any of your favorite cheeses will do, along with a sprinkle of salt. The secret part comes next when I add red pepper flakes to taste in order to give the meal a little bit of a kick. The result is the amazing contrast of a crispy outer tortilla with the melted array of gooey cheese inside and just the right amount of red pepper to leave a little bit of spice tingling in your mouth.

2. The Veggie Quesadilla can be made with any assortment of vegetables. I, however, enjoy mine the most when made with freshly sautéed squash. The easiest way to sautée squash is to heat olive oil in a pan at medium temperature. Once the oil is warm, I sauté some onions until their tender and add chopped zucchini and squash. I stir the veggies until they’re tender and crisp before adding salt and pepper to taste. I then add this delicious mix to a tradition quesadilla made with mozzarella cheese. The outcome impress you with the crisp zucchini and squash wrapped in a warm embrace of mozzarella and tortilla, leaving you wanting more.

3. The Mac and Cheese Quesadilla is in my opinion perfect for the typical college student, because if there is anything I’m willing to bet, it’s that a college kid has a pack of Mac & Cheese in his or her apartment. I make this by whipping up a bowl of mac and cheese. I spread the mac and cheese on a tortilla followed by cheddar cheese and a pinch of cumin, and then allow the tortilla to sit on low heat until the cheese is melted. This quesadilla is delightfully creamy, and a little sharp due to the cheddar.  And thanks to the cumin, it still carries a nutty and slightly earthy undertone.

4. The Cuban Quesadilla is my go-to when I want all the flavor of a tasty Cuban sandwich, but without the carb-filled bread. This quesadilla begins with a flour tortilla on which I spread a layer of mustard on the inside. I then layer the tasty ingredients of provolone cheese, sliced dill pickles, medium thickness ham, shredded pork, swiss cheese and, finally, another flour tortilla (in this order). I then heat the quesadilla on a warm buttered skillet over the stove. This makes more than enough for a single person, so I usually split half with a housemate who is happy to oblige. With the right music, you’ll feel like you’re enjoying this beachside in Florida,

5. The Peach, Chicken and Gorgonzola Dolce Quesadilla is the most unique quesadilla I know how to make. Made like any typical quesadilla, I heat a flour tortilla and add chicken, thinly sliced fresh peaches and gorgonzola dolce cheese. This cheese, which originates in Northern Italy, gives the quesadilla a sweet, creamy taste and unlike other cheeses, Monterey Jack for example, is not at all stringy, allowing it to hold the two sides of the tortilla tightly together. Lastly, I add fresh arugula pesto, which can be made at home or purchased in most grocery stores. When I’m in the mood to take it to the next level, I pair this quesadilla with some balsamic vinegar, which I drizzle over the top. This combination of ingredients makes a sweet quesadilla with a kick of tangy spice from the pesto, and is sure to impress anyone.