The only time I ever wish I had a photographer following me around is when I want to post about food and realize I have no photos!
I moved out to live on my own last weekend. My new apartment has all new appliances and granite countertops with plenty of kitchen space (I fell in love in about half of a second upon entering the apartment the first time). The only way it could get better is if I had a gas range instead of electric. Now that I have my own kitchen with my own stuff supplied by me, and I can cook for just one person without feeling at all guilty about not feeding the other people around me I have begun to actually cook dinner each night.
This last week I was lazy for two nights of the week and ate things that required heating up. The other three nights, though, I made delicious food. Last night I made kimchi chigae and sushi rice, both of which were delicious. On Thursday I made an old favorite – fettucine alfredo with sun-dried tomatoes.
On Wednesday I made a quesadilla. I’m usually a cheese-only quesadilla kind of person. It’s like a grilled cheese sandwich – I don’t want anything added. In the last few years, though, I’ve branched out and become much more foodventurous! When I decided to make a quesadilla I thought, “What can I do to make this a little more interesting, flavorful and healthy?”
This past summer my mom accidentally grew a lot of tomatoes. We ended up using a dehydrator to make “sun” dried tomatoes. While I dislike raw tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes are a new favorite ingredient of mine. Not only can you find entire recipes built up around their flavor, you can add them to many different dishes to liven things up. When I moved out I brought a bag of those tomatoes with me, and this was the first ingredient I thought to include.
What goes better with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes than chicken? The fantastic thing about the quesadilla I made is how little work was actually involved, and how you can keep two of the main ingredients in the pantry – chicken and tomato.
You may be asking yourself, “What is she talking about? Chicken in the pantry?”
That’s right, I used canned chicken. While it may not be as appetizing mentally as freshly cooked chicken, it has some advantages. First, you can keep a can of chicken like you keep a can of tuna – stacked for a month or more in your pantry. Second, it’s already cooked. No time consuming cooking required, which makes this dish great for a quick-to-table meal. Third, it shreds better than freshly cooked chicken.
Tortillas are an ingredient you either need to have on hand, get from the grocery store or learn to make. If you feel like making your own tortillas, you probably already have the ingredients on hand (flour, salt, water, oil) so go crazy. Otherwise tortillas are pretty easy to find in the grocery store. I happen to like Azteca – they are drier, thinner, and less gluey than most other brands.
Cheese! Cheese is an important ingredient – I’d go so far as to say the most important. Quesadilla, after all, is a hybridization of the words “tortilla” and “queso” (Spanish word for cheese). You can use any cheese you think is appropriate to make a quesadilla. I happen to like using a marbled cheese like Colby jack, but a cheddar would also work. Mozarella is a bit too mild for my tastes in a quesadilla. Adding cream cheese can make the quesadilla a bit richer, but cream cheese shouldn’t be used alone. You could even get fancy and use a specialty cheese, just be sure to use something that melts well and can hold the other ingredients together.
Sun-dried tomatoes that are not in oil need to be rehydrated in a bowl of hot water before using. There are lots of ways to do this. I simply put the amount of tomatoes I want to use in a bowl or glass, fill it with very hot water and wait until the tomatoes soften up. The more you do this, the better feel you’ll have for it. You can always search on the internet for ways to do this to get a better idea of what method you want to use and how long you need to soak them.
After rehydrating the tomatoes, they need to be chopped up into small pieces. Make the pieces small enough that they will not overwhelm any single bite of quesadilla. Sun-dried tomatoes have a strong flavor – as delicious as it is, you probably want it to be a part of the overall flavor rather than dominating the entire profile.
The canned chicken needs simply to be opened, drained and shredded. Use your fingers to shred the chunks of chicken.
Shred a much cheese as you think is appropriate. I like the medium amount of cheese on my quesadilla, but because I did all of this by feel it’s hard to give a definite amount. Regardless, you’ll need to shred enough cheese to mix it in with the other ingredients and cover one tortilla (or one half tortilla if you are making a quesadilla out of just one tortilla instead of two).
Mix the cheese, sun-dried tomato pieces and chicken together. Place a tortilla in a pan over medium heat and sprinkle/spread the cheese mixture over it. If you’ve decided to make a one-tortilla quesadilla, this is where you would spread the mixture over half the tortilla, then fold the other half over. A two-tortilla quesadilla requires spreading over the entire tortilla and placing a second tortilla on top. Flip the quesadilla when the cheese starts to melt and the tortilla begins to turn light brown. Remove from heat and serve when the cheese is completely melted and both sides of the quesadilla are golden brown. Cut the quesdilla in wedges with a pizza cutter and serve!
This goes well with a little sour cream or salsa (and possibly guacamole).
- sun-dried tomatoes (dry or in oil)
- canned chicken
- cheese, like Colby jack
- Begin re-hydrating sun-dried tomatoes using very hot water
- Shred desired amount of cheese (judge this based on number of quesadillas being made and the size of the tortillas)
- Open and drain chicken, shred into a bowl by pulling apart with your fingers
- Check sun-dried tomatoes for tenderness – if they are soft and pliable they are probably ready. Move on to step 5
- Put a pan on the stove to pre-heat it over medium heat (especially important with electric range)
- Drain the tomatoes and chop into very small pieces
- Add the shredded cheese and tomatoes to the bowl with the chicken. Mix together thoroughly
- Place a tortilla in pan and spread mixture over the surface, then cover with a second tortilla*
- When cheese begins to melt and the bottom of the quesadilla has begun to turn golden brown, flip over.
- Remove from heat when cheese is completely melted, both sides are golden brown, and all ingredients are heated through.
- Serve cut into wedges with sour cream, salsa or guacamole.
*As previously mentioned you can also spread over half the tortilla and simply fold the tortilla over