Metro-East Living

Stuff it: Use your imagination to fill a quesadilla

Stuff a quesadilla with buffalo chicken.
Stuff a quesadilla with buffalo chicken.

Welcome to the world of the quesadilla, both flat and tasty.

In case you’re not familiar, it’s a Mexican sandwich of sorts, where you take a big flour tortilla (or two) and put it on a griddle or in a big skillet. Scatter cheese and other fillings on top, then either fold the tortilla in half or put another on top. Let the heat melt the cheese and stick it together, then flip and lightly brown the other side.

Quesadillas in Mexican restaurants usually are filled with cheese and chicken; sometimes green or red peppers are added. They are typically sliced like a pie in wedges and served with sour cream and salsa.

But, there is so much more you can do with a quesadilla that takes it beyond its usual role as an appetizer.

First, for anybody with kids, this is an instant warm sandwich that takes minutes to prepare. Think how exotic a grilled cheese sandwich becomes when it’s made faster with tortillas. Plus, maybe you can hide a few finely chopped veggies in there.

Second, personalize quesadillas by choosing smaller-size tortillas and letting the family put what they want inside. It’s a good idea to have a griddle where you can make two at a time for meals like these.

Set out bowls with ingredients and let everybody pick what they want as fillers. One caution: Don’t overfill a quesadilla, it just gets soggy and hard to pick up and eat.

Third, think breakfast and dessert, because you can fill a quesadilla with almost anything, from leftovers in the fridge to scrambled eggs and bacon (see recipe here).

One thing to remember, though, is generally to stuff only with things that don’t need cooking (like the cheese) or with precooked items (like the bacon).

Quesadillas can be healthy, depending on the ingredients. Get a head start by using a nonstick pan that doesn’t require any fat. If you use a regular pan, coat it with a little bit of oil or cooking spray before adding the tortillas.

Regardless, heat the pan over a medium flame. When it’s hot, place one tortilla onto the pan. Immediately add your filling, but always cheese first and last if it’s being used, and top with a second tortilla (if you’re using one). If your filling is very cold, you might want to cover the pan to encourage warming of the filling. Don’t touch the tortilla until the bottom gets a little brown. Then, if you are using two tortillas, carefully flip the quesadilla and brown the other side. If you’re only using one, carefully fold it in half. Either way, transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board and cut it into wedges and serve while it’s hot.

No complicated recipes needed for making quesadillas, so here’s an assortment, including easy dessert ones:

Mascarpone cheese mixed with a little vanilla and slices of fresh or grilled fruit like peaches or strawberries. (Allow the tortilla to cool somewhat so that the mascarpone won’t melt.)

Spread Nutella or any cookie butter, then add sliced strawberries, bananas and/or blueberries. Before serving, top with whipped cream or powdered sugar.

Spread peanut butter, sliced bananas and top with mini chocolate chips. Kids really like this one.

Pizza Quesadillas

2 (10-inch) tortillas

1 cup mozzarella, shredded

4 tablespoons pizza sauce

16 slices pepperoni

1 tablespoon sliced black olives

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.

Place one tortilla in the pan, sprinkle half of the cheese over it, followed by the pizza sauce, pepperoni, olives, the remaining cheese and finally the remaining tortilla.

Cook until the quesadilla is golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted, about 2-4 minutes per side. Servings: 2.

Burrito-style Quesadilla

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup refried beans

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

2 cups Mexican cheese blend

Step 1: In a large skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain any excess grease. Stir in refried beans, green chilies, oregano, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes, or until heated through.

Step 2: Heat another skillet to medium-low heat. Place a tortilla into the pan. Evenly sprinkle cheese over it. On one half on top of the tortilla, add some of the meat mixture. Cook until the bottom has browned and the cheese has melted. With a spatula fold the half of the tortilla without the meat mixture over the half with the meat mixture and press down. Remove from the pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Step 3: Cut into wedges and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Breakfast Quesadillas

1 pound thin bacon


1 whole onion, diced

1 whole bell pepper (any color), seeded and diced

1 whole jalapeno, seeded and diced, optional

8 whole eggs

1/4 cup half and half

Salt and pepper, to taste

6 tortillas (regular or whole grain)

1 1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese

Avocado slices (optional)

Pico de gallo, for serving

Sour cream, for serving

Fry the bacon, then remove it to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off the excess grease.

Return the skillet to the stove over high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter. After it has melted and the skillet is hot, add the onions, bell pepper and jalapeno. Stir it around and cook until the veggies are starting to soften and are turning golden brown. Remove to a plate and set aside. Set the skillet back on the stove over medium-low heat.

Mix together the eggs, half-and-half and salt and pepper in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet, then pour in the eggs. Scoot the eggs around the skillet with a spatula, cooking slowly, until the eggs are done. Turn off the heat and set aside.

To assemble the quesadillas, place a tortilla on a buttered griddle or skillet over medium-low heat. Add a layer of cheese, a layer of cooked veggies, a layer of bacon slices, a layer of eggs, a layer of avocado, and another layer of cheese. Top with a second tortilla.

Cook on both sides, flipping carefully, until the cheeses are totally melted and filling is hot. Repeat with the other tortillas and ingredients.

Slice the three quesadillas into four wedges each. Serve on a plate with sour cream and pico de gallo or salsa — or grab them and head out the door.

This recipe makes three quesadillas, which should serve six people.

Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce

2 tablespoons ranch dressing

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/8 cup cilantro (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

4 flour tortillas (10 inches)

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Mexican cheese blend

Sour cream or bleu cheese salad dressing for dipping

Heat skillet to medium heat, In a small bowl, toss chicken, buffalo sauce, ranch, cheese, salt, pepper and cilantro.

Lightly grease pan with oil. Place tortilla on pan, top with 1/4 of chicken mixture and fold in half. Allow to cook for 2 minutes and flip for 2 minutes on the other side. Remove from heat and repeat the process for all four tortillas. Cut each quesadillas into four portions, makes 16 slices.

In a small bowl, mix sour cream, garnish with cilantro and serve with the quesadillas as a dip. Serves 4.

Caramelized Onion Pear and Brie Quesadilla

The amounts below are all approximate. You can increase/decrease the amounts and proportions based on your tastes and quantities needed.

1 medium onion

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

8-ounce wheel of brie

1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced thin

4 large or 8 small four tortillas

Peel the onion and cut in half, then cut each half into 1/4-inch slices.

In a 10-inch skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are deep golden brown. 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cool and roughly chop.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Season with a bit of butter. Lay a tortilla on the griddle. Then layer on thin slices of brie cheese, pears and top with 3-4 tablespoons of the caramelized onions. Lay a second tortilla on top and cook over medium heat until the bottom is crispy and brie begins to melt. Flip and cook until both sides are crispy and fillings are heated through. Remove from heat and let rest for 2-3 minutes. Slice and serve.

Makes 2 large or 4 small quesadillas.