Mexican food has been part of my repertoire for a long time. I enjoy the earthy flavours, simplicity, colours and aromas of this cuisine. I am just now replacing some of the Mexican cookbooks that I had before, and already have a few books by the incomparable Diana Kennedy (the Grand Dame of Mexican Cuisine), the modern and innovative Rick Bayless of the Fronterra fame and a few other books for information and inspiration. Diana Kennedy, an undisputed authority on Mexican cooking, is rumoured to be short tempered and critical and if you want some gossip I have some for you. There is a story circulating about the first time Rick Bayless met the Grand Dame herself on a pilgrimage trip to her kitchen in Mexico. As the story goes, she disapproved of everything he said or did and eventually kicked him out of the car in the middle of the road, forcing him to walk back into town. Talk about temper. As is always the case, there are three sides to every story, mine yours and the truth. Kennedy has her own version of the same event making Bayless seem arrogant and brash, but confirming that she gave him the “bum’s rush”. Either way it’s hilarious if you asked me. If you want to read more about Kennedy you can find it here and here.
I have traveled, eaten and cooked in Mexico for many years now and find it fun to experiment with the beautiful local ingredients you find there. I can tell you that Mexican avocados are simply the best, their tomatoes are so red and full of flavour, the Mexican crema is a unique product and the Dulce de leché incomparable (it’s a Central American product).
We have a couple of food rituals in Mexico. One is a “chips and salsa” ritual at the end of a day at the beach with fresh salsa and guacamole and village-made tortilla chips. We sit on the patio in Puerto Aventuras on the Mayan Riviera, watching the fishing boats return from the afternoon outing with their catch and scooping salsa with the chips. The other ritual is crepes with Dulce de leché that my family won’t do without. I make the crepes in two pans at the same time, even flipping them in the air to “show off” my skill. I fold them up and offer them with warm Dulce the Leché sauce to which I add some Mexican crema. I can barley keep up with the demand for those and stand there making them until everyone had enough. I don’t know why I never make these at home here.
The tortillas In Mexico are a treat as well. We buy a 5″ stack of fresh white corn tortillas still warm from the press, wrapped in wax paper. We make breakfast and dinner using these beautiful tortillas in various ways, from tacos to burritos to quesadillas or use them warmed up to scoop up whatever dinner we are having. It completely spoiled my taste for store bought corn tortillas we find in grocery stores here. I was glad to find a source for buying these homemade white corn tortillas and keep them in the fridge (not the freezer) for when the need arises.
The quesadilla recipe I offer here is simple and easy to prepare for a quick lunch or dinner. I wouldn’t show it to Diana Kennedy because I used what I had in the fridge rather than search for authentic ingredients but it is delish just the same. I was looking for ways to use up the wild mushrooms I bought and this was one of ways I decided to use them. The filling is made with wild mushrooms, corn scraped off the cob and black beans (I used canned). For cheeses I used what I had in the fridge, so it is mozzarella to bind the filling and goat cheese for flavour (use Oaxaca and queso fresco if you have them). I prefer to make quesadillas with the smaller flour tortillas and then cut them in half to serve. Some recipes call for stacking them up but I like one side folded over, it’s easier to eat and prevents the filling from spilling.
Serve the quesadillas with creme fraiche or sour cream and a little extra salsa, homemade or store bought. I can already see myself asked to leave the car on the side of the road by the Grand Dame of Mexican cuisine.
4 flour tortillas
Salsa, homemade or store bought
1 cup grated mozarella
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup oil (olive or corn oil)
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 wild mushrooms (chanterelles and lobster)
1 cup corn
1 small can black beans
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
A small buch of cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add onion and cook until softened.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant being careful not to burn it (it becomes bitter when burnt).
Add the mushrooms and cook until softened. You may need to add a little more oil (or water) if the pan seems dry.
Add the corn and beans, ancho chili powder and salt ans pepper to taste.
Cook until everything is warm, combined and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and add a handful of chopped cilantro.
Assembling the quesadilla:
Lay a flour tortilla flat on a plate.
Spoon salsa over the entire tortilla, scatter mozarella over and then spoon some of the filling over the bottom half of the tortilla.
Scatter more mozarella over the filling as well as some of the goat cheese and a little more cilantro.
Fold the tortilla over the filling.
Repeat with as many tortillas as you need. if you don’t use all the filling you can always use the extra as a side dish for another meal.
Cooking the quesadilla:
Heat a little olive oil in a large (about a couple of teaspoons),
Carefully lift the quesadilla, one at a time, and lay it in the skillet. You can slide it around to get to the oil.
cook until the underside is golden, then carefully flip it over with a wide spatula and cook the other side.
Remove to a clean plate and continue with remaining quesadillas.
Place each quesadilla on a cutting board and cut in half.
Arrange on a serving plate and serve with additional salsa, sour cream and shredded lettuce if you wish.