Savvy Mom: Killer Quesadillas

I won’t make you wait till the end of this post to share my secrets for killer quesadillas: oil and salt.

When my sons, now six and eight years old, were younger, they didn’t like quesadillas. When other parents touted them as their sure-fire family meal I wanted to weep. My boys would eat grilled cheese and toast, but not quesadillas. Then, things changed. I saw a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

These quesadillas were more complicated than just slapping tortillas and cheese in a pan or the microwave. But when I followed the directions, the results were dramatic. My kids gobbled quesadillas down for the first time in their lives.

The difference? Brushing the tortillas with a little oil, then lightly sprinkling them with salt. The flavor and texture improve even when I use whole-wheat tortillas. And something about the crisp, salted exterior made my kids much more amenable to what was on the inside. I was now free to experiment with fillings like frozen corn, canned beans, or even leftover roasted sweet potato. Any of these more than offset whatever drop in healthfulness the small amount of added oil and salt brought.

Nowadays, for a desperation dinner on a weeknight, few things bring more relief than these quesadillas. What they also bring? Hugs from my kids, who are no longer quesadilla haters.

Killer Quesadillas

(serves 3 to 4)

6 whole-wheat tortillas
6 tablespoons beans or leftover meat
6 tablespoons small vegetables
1/2 pound grated cheddar or jack cheese
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Heat skillet over medium heat. Warm a tortilla in the skillet, 10 seconds a side, remove and warm another tortilla.

To assemble: outside the pan, brush one side of a warmed tortilla with oil, sprinkle with salt, and place oiled side down on a plate or cutting board. Top with 2 tablespoons beans, 2 tablespoons vegetables, and 2 to 4 tablespoons of cheese, leaving a border of 1/2 inch or more. Place other warmed tortilla on top, use tongs or spatula to transfer to pan with salted, oiled side down.

Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly brown. Meanwhile, lightly brush top with oil, sprinkle with salt. Flip and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until other side is brown. Remove from skillet, keep in warm oven and repeat with remaining tortillas and fillings. Do not stack second quesadilla on top of first; they’ll get soggy. Cut into eighths with pizza slicer. Serve with sour cream, salsa, or guacamole.