<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Fanny. No really - that is her actual name. She is a massive massive massive foodie, and would like to share with you all the adventures on all of the things she puts in her mouth. Wait, no - not like that ... I mean ... well, you know what I mean. Aw shucks, just hit it already Fanny ... </editorsnote>
#TalkNerdyToMeLover's Fanny Slater
i'd like to say that olive and i are the kind of cooks who wear many hats.
olive, that's not exactly what i mea......nevermind.
what i mean by that, is that i don't always like to stick to one type of cuisine when preparing a dish. i'm not saying that you should have crab rangoons on the side of your eggplant parmesan--i just mean that sometimes it's fun to combine two different flavor profiles of food in one meal. in this case--we're talking mexican and greek. or greexican, if you will. i have a strange obsession with greek food. where it came from, i have absolutely no idea. it's not that my family doesn't like greek food--my parents will drive twenty five minutes out of the way for good hummus. however, i have such an infatuation with this specific cuisine that i'm convinced i was bottle-fed tzatziki sauce as a child. today's lesson is not just about mingling two different styles of food. i'd also like to talk to you a little bit about flavor.
seriously. can we please...PLEASE stop the hate crimes against quesadillas?
can we please stop slapping american cheese between a folded tortilla, sticking it in the microwave, and trying to pass it off as a quesadilla? seriously. get that sh*t out of here. to me, a quesadilla is simply different flavorful ingredients (along with cheese) stuffed between a flour tortilla, which is crisped on both sides, melted in the middle, cut into triangles, and dipped into some sort of sauce. the same way that you can turn anything into a sandwich--this rule applies for quesadillas as well. one of the things i love about getting quesadillas at a good quality mexican restaurant is that they know how to add depth and flavor. the more i watch behind-the-scenes cooking at mexican restaurants on my favorite food network show "diners, drive ins, and dives" the more i learn how to mirror these same flavors at home. if you want to re-create those big, bold, spicy dishes in your own kitchen--you need to follow this very important rule: you don't produce mexican food by squeezing a lime over something or sprinkling it with chili powder.
you also don't become the queen of england by wearing a funny hat and sipping tea.
see what i'm saying?
you need to let all of your ingredients simmer together in a pool of mexican flavors. imagine, if you will, a spicy, tomato-ey hot tub that turns your food from average to OLE! in no time. for last night's quesadilla, i wanted everything to be entirely from scratch. i started out by roasting a big juicy piece of chicken breast on the bone with olive oil, lemon, oregano, paprika, pepper, and smoky hawaiian sea salt. while that was cooking, i began preparing my mexican hot tub. caramelized red onions, cremini mushrooms, charred yellow pepper, and garlic simmered together in a little marsala wine for some extra sweetness. once the chicken was cooked and rested (you NEVER want to use sleepy chicken), i shredded it by hand and added it to the party on the stove. at this point, all we had was chicken and veggies.
then, olive and i pulled out our maracas and took a turn for the southwest.
into the pan went: diced tomatoes, two kinds of hot sauce, chili powder, red pepper flakes, lime juice, lime zest, and a mexican fajita seasoning salt (cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, sugar, etc). as all of those ingredients simmered and bubbled down, the spicy ingredients clung onto the chicken and vegetables. the aromas of chilies and tomatoes filled the air, and i swear a mariachi band nearby began to weep. next i moved onto the cheese. a lot of people just throw mozzarella in a quesadilla and call it a day. well, i believe that the best rule of thumb is "use what you have on hand" so if that happens to be mozzarella, then go for it. i just happened to have cheddar, muenster, parmesan, and a creamy sun-dried tomato mozzarella spread in my fridge. i blame my mom for this--as her idea of a fun day is bringing home eleven different assorted cheeses from whole foods. once everything was tucked away inside the whole wheat tortilla, i dropped it in a hot pan with oil, flipping it once to create a golden brown crust on both sides.
now back to all that crazy talk about giving this meal a little greek-pick-me-up. 100% of the time, you see plain sour cream served with a quesadilla. well, i happen to love tzatziki sauce--which is generally made with thick greek yogurt, but can also be created from scratch by using sour cream. if you like strawberry jelly on your toast, then why would you buy orange marmalade?
catch my drift?
that's okay, it didn't really make sense.
what i'm saying is--why use a simple, boring old sour cream to dress up my quesadilla when my heart longs for garlicky, lemony tzatziki sauce? i think that with the spicy, acidic homemade pico de gallo (see recipe below) you need something light and citrus-flavored to cut through it.
*foodie note: homemade pico de gallo takes less than ten minutes to make. try it. i dare you.* the ingredients are as follows: fresh diced tomatoes (i like roma tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine), diced jalapeno, diced red onion, lime juice, salt, pepper, chili powder, cilantro (i generally don't have cilantro in my fridge, but this recipe is JUST as good without it). if you have a fajita seasoning packet--i got mine at the farmer's market for $1--sprinkle some of that in there as well. you really just need a pinch of all the seasonings, but do it to your own taste preference. homemade tzatziki sauce: plain greek yogurt OR sour cream (i like the non-fat because i eat this stuff by the spoonful), lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh dill, fresh minced garlic, diced cucumbers, salt.
mix, serve alongside your fancy new quesadilla, take a bow.
OLE! i mean...OPA! i mean...whatever, just eat your quesadilla.