Mushroom Quesadillas with Chiles and Chipotle Cheese

Quesadillas, ready to serve with salsa!

Quesadillas, ready to serve with salsa!

These are a favorite around here and are eaten as fast as I can cook them up! This recipe makes four. You may want to keep the first ones someplace warm as you cook the rest — if you’re not serving them out as you make them! You can make quesadillas with smaller or larger tortillas. Adjust the amount of cheese and filling accordingly. The medium-sized tortillas seem the best choice to me; the small ones just seem too small and the bigger ones are really tricky to turn over, even with my super-sized spatula. The skillet pictured below is a 12 inch skillet and medium sized tortillas are just about the right size for it.

1 poblano pepper
5-7 white button mushrooms
8 tortillas, 7-8″ diameter
1 block Cabot chipotle cheddar

There are a number of variations you can make to moderate (or increase) spiciness. You don’t need a “quesadilla maker”, just a skillet. The trick to quesadillas with any kind of vegetable inside is to cook the veggies first, because the actual cooking time for each quesadilla is mere minutes — just enough to toast the tortilla a bit and melt the cheese.

Deseed and slice the poblano pepper in strips, then cut the strips in pieces not more than a couple of inches long. Saute in a small amount of oil while you clean and remove stems from the mushrooms. Slice the mushrooms, then give them a brief coarse chopping to make the pieces a bit smaller (unless the caps are very small). Throw them in with the poblano peppers and saute until the mushrooms have changed color and the peppers are done. Remember: they’re not going to get any significant amount of cooking after they’re added to the quesadillas, so cook them to the amount of doneness you want.

You can grate the cheese for this, but I just slice it. For this amount (four 8 inch quesadillas) you won’t use up the whole block. Put the cheese in the center on the tortilla, leaving an inch or an inch and a half around the edge. Scoop a small amount, about a quarter of the amount cooked up, on top of the cheese, leaving the same margin around the edge. Place another tortilla on top, then place the quesadilla in a moderately hot skillet. (I cook these on about 4 on my electric stove.) See slideshow below for pics of  cheese, amount of filling, cooking, etc.) Let it cook briefly, pressing with a spatula a bit, until the tortilla has gotten toasty and brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted. This will only take a minute or two. Turn it over carefully. (I use my favorite round spatula, which is larger than the usual.) Brown the other side, taking care not to scorch either side. You may want to turn them more than once until you get a feel for how long they need on each side based on your stove. The cheese is the glue that holds the ingredients and tortillas together. Give it time to melt before you flip the first time.

Cut into quarters and serve hot with salsa.

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You can make these with just the chipotle cheese, if you need to throw something together a little more quickly. The spicy cheddar makes even plain cheese quesadillas special.

If you want a much milder version of these quesadillas, substitute a milder cheddar, one that doesn’t have peppers in it, or perhaps a plain jack cheese or queso blanco. The poblanos are mild peppers, but flavorful. If you want a hotter quesadilla, substitute a hot pepper for the poblano, but be careful!

I like the combination of flavors with the chipotle cheddar, poblano, and mushrooms but there are a lot of combinations of different types of cheese and other ingredients that can be put into quesadillas. The only things you need to keep in mind is to cook the vegetables first and not to over-load the tortillas when filling them. The filling should be a single layer, not heaped up on the cheese, nor should it completely cover the cheese. Never use more filling than you have cheese to glue it all together.

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Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is a main dish and is very filling. (At least I think so.) You might want to plan on a light side dish, or at least not something massive and heavy.

Stuffed bell peppers, assorted colors.

Stuffed bell peppers, assorted colors.

You can use any color bell pepper you wish — or a colorful assortment. Different varieties of bell pepper have different flavors. Green peppers have a sharper flavor than red, orange and yellow peppers which are often referred to as “sweeter” than the green varieties. They aren’t sweet, but rather have a milder “bell pepper” flavor than the green varieties. Some people don’t like the flavor of green bell peppers, so using a variety of colors may be a hit with friends and family members. 🙂 I like the festive look of a variety of colors, but note than yellow and orange bell peppers look pretty much alike after they’re cooked. If the color scheme is important, keep that in mind. 🙂

4 large bell peppers, any color
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 pkg Smart Ground
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika (for spicier use Hungarian hot paprika, but you might want to use less)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Olive oil
A few oz cheese or vegan cheese

Chop onion finely. It doesn’t have to be diced, but it definitely shouldn’t be coarsely chopped. Smaller pieces integrate into the sauce and fit the peppers better. Run the garlic through a garlic press or mince. Saute over medium heat in a medium size saucepan, using a small amount of olive oil, until onions are translucent. Add Smart Ground, breaking up with a spoon. Add tomato sauce. Stir well. Add seasonings and simmer over low heat while preparing the peppers.

Core peppers and remove seeds and ribs as much as you can. I use a small paring knife, then use my fingers to remove ribs and seeds. (You may need to rinse out the last few seeds.) Place peppers in 1 1/2 qt casserole and fill dish about halfway with water. Cover and microwave 4 minutes to partially steam peppers.

Some recipes I’ve seen call for boiling the peppers or blanching them to partially cook them before stuffing them. I don’t, but feel free to give that a try if you think it would work better than the pre-cooking in the microwave.

Stir panko bread crumbs into stuffing mixture. Remove from heat. Stuff peppers using a small spoon. You will probably have a small amount of the mixture left over, depending on the size of the peppers. Refrigerate this: it makes a good sandwich the next day. 🙂

Sliced in half.

Sliced in half.

Bake, in dish half-full of water, covered, 350 for 30 minutes. Grate, slice or crumble cheese (or vegan cheese), depending on type of cheese and your own preference. I’ve always used cheddar, but there are a number of varieties cheese (or vegan cheese) which would be good with this. The cheese is a nice finishing touch, but if you want to leave it off, you can. Put cheese in the top opening of the peppers or on top so that when melted the top has a nice cheesy plug of melted cheese. Bake uncovered another 10 mins or until cheese is melted or toasty.