As far as Tex-Mex favorites go, it doesn’t get much simpler than the humble quesadilla. In its most basic form, this dish consists of only two ingredients: two tortillas (or one tortilla folded in half) and a handful of shredded cheese. Melt the cheese inside the tortilla, cut it into wedges if you’d like, and that’s it. They’re warm, they’re yummy, and they’re so easy to make – even a child can pull it off with minimal supervision.
However, just because quesadillas can be simple does not mean that they have to be simple. If you love this dish but find that it often leaves you wanting more, there are a few neat ways to jazz it up. For example:
Add Meat and Veggies
Quesadillas are often thought of as more of a snack (or an appetizer) than a full meal. That’s understandable; melted cheese inside of a tortilla is delicious, but it’s not very filling. For this reason, many folks like to add some kind of meat to their quesadillas. Chicken and (fajita) steak are popular choices, and those are far from your only options. Brisket quesadillas, for example, lean pretty hard toward the “Tex” side of Tex-Mex, and shrimp quesadillas can seem a bit more Cal-Mex than anything else. Regardless of which fare you favor, quesadillas are a great way to use leftover (cooked!) meat that you have in your fridge. Slice that stuff up real thin, toss it in with the cheese, and you’re good to go.
Oh, and vegetarians: don’t think we forgot about y’all! If you’d like a quesadilla that will “stick to your ribs,” try adding wilted spinach, sliced mushrooms, and/or artichoke hearts. Peppers can add a bright pop of flavor, as well. When you bring these ingredients out to play, don’t be too surprised if your “carnivore” friends start eyeing (or drooling over) your meat-free creations!
Get Creative with Dips
Popular sides (read: dipping sauces) for quesadillas include sour cream, red salsa, and guacamole. Some people have one favorite accompaniment that they swear by, and some folks like to mix and match. It’s important to remember, though, that there’s no hard and fast rule about what you’re “allowed” to eat with quesadillas. So don’t be afraid to experiment!
Love cheese? Pair your quesadilla with queso and double up on the dairy! Want to stay in the neighborhood of Tex-Mex? Try enchilada sauce, green tomatillo salsa, or even refried beans. Want to leave the neighborhood of Tex-Mex and boldly forge a new path? Go nuts with savory condiments (e.g., barbecue sauce or pepper sauce) or even sweet add-ons (e.g., melted chocolate or apple jelly). Yes, you may wind up creating a combination that’s totally disgusting—as the old saying goes, “Cooking is an art, not a science.” But you could also discover a dynamic duo that works together in perfect harmony. And isn’t that worth a little culinary trial-and-error?
The two most common ways to make quesadillas are (1) in the microwave or (2) in a pan on a stovetop. Option one is quicker and requires less cleanup, while option two tends to yield a crispier final product. Home chefs tend to have a preferred method of preparation, and it usually depends upon how they like their quesadillas (e.g., crunchy or soft) and how much time they’re willing to devote to making them.
That said, some folks with a penchant for outdoor cooking have enjoyed a surprising amount of success at grilling quesadillas on their backyard grill. Wrapping the little morsels in a makeshift foil “envelope” before throwing them onto the grill can help ensure even cooking and prevent melted cheese from making a mess. On the other hand, if you love the look and taste of real grill marks on your food, you can be adventurous and place the tortillas directly on the wire rack.
The next time you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, consider whipping up a couple grilled quesadillas as appetizers for your guests. Your hungry friends and family will appreciate the snack…and probably be impressed by your creativity, too.
Quesadillas may not be anyone’s idea of complex, gourmet cooking, but they’re an old standby in Tex-Mex cuisine, and Tex-Mex connoisseurs aren’t likely to abandon them anytime soon. When you need a simple snack that’s quick and easy to make, quesadillas are there. When you want to feed a group of people on a budget, quesadillas are a viable option. And when you want a delicious, savory entrée that’s easy to eat (and often totally customizable) at your favorite restaurant…quesadillas may fill that role.
At the end of the day, a quesadilla can be as plain and unassuming or fun and fancy as you’d like it to be. That’s the simple truth!