The food of any given country or region always speaks volumes of it’s history and culture, apart from the geographical and topographical factors. Quesadillas are a part of mexican cuisine, created mostly with ingredients native to Mexico as well as those brought over by the Spanish, with some new influences since then.
Mexican cuisine is closely tied to the culture, social structure and popular traditions of the country along with some socio-cultural influences from Europe. Eventually these ingredients and cooking techniques, being culturally influenced, are tied to the cultural symbolism. For the same reason, Mexican cuisine has been cited as an example of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Among the staples that remain native to Mexico are beans, corn and chilli peppers; while among the ones introduced by the Europeans, includes meat from domesticated animals, dairy products (especially cheese) and a number of herbs and spices in bulk.
Quesadilla (pronunciation: kesa-di-ah) is one of the popular attractions of the Mexican street food. Quesadilla had originated in the colonial Mexico but has evolved as a dish from time to time after being experimented over and over and is now known in variations across regions: American Quesadilla, Mexican Quesadilla, et al.
Mexican Quesadilla is primarily prepared from tortilla (pronounced as tohr/tee/yah) that has been stuffed with Mexican staples like corn, kidney beans, salsa, peppers, et al. Tortilla is a thin flat bread made of flour or maize flour, often similar to Roti in India.
The image is a representational image. The recipe shared here will yield you slightly different ones! Take a look:
Recipe: Quesadillas made with Roti Tortillas
For the Tortillas:
Flour – 3 cups
Salt – to taste
Oil – 2 tbsp
Water – Enough to knead the dough soft
For the Stuffing:
Carrots – 3/4 cup – shredded
Cabbage – 1/2 cup – shredded
Onion – 1/4 cup – shredded
Green Bell Pepper – 1/2 Cup -julienned
Rajma (Kidney Beans) – 2 cups – boiled
Corn Kernels – 1 cup – boiled
Red Pepper Sauce/ Red Chilli Sauce – 1 tbsp
Vinegar – 1 tbsp
Pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
Red Pepper flakes – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Grated Cheddar Cheese – 2 Cups
Cheese Spread – to taste (optional)
Red Bell Pepper -1 – finely chopped
Dry Red Chillies
Green Chilly – 1 – finely chopped
Tomatoes – 4 medium sized (chopped into 1 inch chunks)
Garlic – 2 cloves
Heat some olive oil in a small vok or sauce pan. Add the red Bell Peppers, garlic cloves, green chillies and dry red chillies. Let it smoke. Add half of the tomatoes. Let them cook. Mash them into a coarse paste using a hand masher. Cook the tomatoes and take off the stove. Once the mixture cools for about 10-15 mins, add it into a mixie/ blender bowl along with the remaining tomatoes. Crush it into a coarse paste, take out in a bowl and let it cool in a refrigerator.
Left-over rotis (without ghee) of the morning can be used as Tortillas. However, if you want to make fresh ones, here’s the procedure.
Take flour in a bowl. Add salt and oil. Keep adding little of water as you keep mixing the flour and knead a soft dough (not the harder one) into a pliable consistency.
Make small balls (about the size you can hold in your palm) out of the dough. About 8-9 should be okay. Roll them out flat using a rolling pin. You should be getting 14-15cm round rotis, preferably thin.
Place them, one at a time on a pan and cook each side twice. Take out in a plate and keep aside. Do not cover.
Heat about 3 tbsp oil in a vok. Add salt and pepper. Add onions and saute till their skin becomes a little pink. Put in the bell peppers and other grated vegetables and saute till the retained water steams out. Add the vinegar and sauce. Saute will till the sauce gets absorbed.
Let the mixture cool for 5-10 mins and fold in the corn kernels (They needn’t be cooked with the sauce, it’s fresh boiled taste adds to the beauty.) While it cools, Mash the boiled rajma with a hand-masher and not in the mixie. A little coarse mixture will be good.
Now place one tortilla on a baking dish. Spread 1/2 tbsp of the Salsa you made. Add the sauted vegetables and spread it over. Add some grated cheese and red pepper flakes. Cover it with another tortilla. spread some salsa followed by the mashed kidney beans/ rajma. Add grated Cheese and some red pepper flakes. Take another tortilla and spread it with salsa and put it upside down, facing the rajma. The top layer may be spread over with cheese spread or simply greased with 1/2 tbsp of cooking oil. Cut this cake into six to 8 pieces.
Pre-heat the oven at 220 degree celsius for 10-15 mins. Place the Quesadilla and bake for about 5-10 mins. This is just to melt the cheese and get the tortilla crisper.
Repeat the same for other tortilla cakes.
If you are left with 2-3 tortillas, just cut them into quarters and shallow fry them while the Quesadilla gets baked. Drain excess oil in a paper-napkin and sprinkle some salt, red pepper flakes and Grated Cheese.
Take a serving dish. Place the fried tortillas all sides. Place the baked Quesadilla chunks at the centre. Garnish with some grated Cheese. Serve hot with chilled Salsa and a peppered cheese spread as another dip.
Makes a Meal with:
Quesadilla in itself makes a great meal or a quick snack!
You might just keep sipping on some Tangy or sweet juice along side.
Some white wine or plain vodka too would be good to go if you’re up for the high spirits!
Cheese, Corn and kidney beans remain to be integral ingredients of the Quesadilla. Rest of the ingredients can be replaced or experimented with.
You can use marinated and shredded paneer (cottage cheese) in the stuffing. Non-vegetarians may use chicken or prawns that are well marinated in chilli, lime juice and other ingredients of choice.
Sauces can be experimented with and you may use some other tangy-spicy sauce.
Fresh Lettuce leaves (not shredded) spread over the tortilla after the salsa. Here, you may remove shredded cabbage.