This week when our short and chilly snowstorm rolled in it inspired me to create comfort food with a fun kick. The colder it got, the more I fantasized about whipping up a hot dish such as a cheesy Southwest dish. Enter the quesadilla — a grilled cheese sandwich knockoff — but, instead of bread, a flour tortilla makes this goodie sublime. And adding hot stuff including onions and peppers give it an extra punch. Cut into wedges it’s easy on the eyes and fab on the taste buds.
When I lived in Santa Cruz Mountains, one spring I made a version of a quesadilla. My life was different but the same. I was in graduate school reading classic novels on my no-school days, while living solo with two dogs, six cats, and eleven puppies. On an April afternoon I concocted a budget-wise guacamole and fried tortilla chips. While busy in the kitchen I was hit by the Morgan Hill, Calif., magnitude-6.2 earthquake that sent me fleeing outside amid towering redwood trees. Nobody was in sight except me, my spooked animals and Mother Nature. After the strong quake, I ate the crunchy chips and dip to soothe my rattled nerves.
Now that I’m older and a bit more hip to quakes and disaster preparedness, again I find myself alone working at homes surrounded by pine trees, but with just two dogs and a cat. There hasn’t been an unforgettable California shaker for a while; the storm was easy to deal with and my critters kept me company while gathering firewood, shoveling snow and keeping warm. Instead of feeling edgy while munching on tortilla treats, I savored quesadillas, a calming food — gooey and crispy — as I sat by the fire. This easy-to-create recipe is quick to make and versatile no matter what rocks your world.
1 small avocado, cut into thin slices
4 slices cheese (cheddar or Swiss)
4 whole-grain flour tortillas
1-2 tablespoons European-style butter
2 small Roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 chili pepper, diced
In a bowl, mix ingredients. Let set in fridge for a few hours for better flavor.
Sour cream (garnish)
Springtime lettuce (garnish)
Place a tortilla in a skillet with butter and sauté on medium heat. Top with cheese and avocado. Cover with other tortilla. Cook till cheese is melted and tortilla is golden brown. Cut into four wedges. Garnish with tomato salsa, sour cream, and lettuce. Serves 2.
It’s a pretty dish, perfect for an appetizer, lunch or even a light dinner. The chunky red salsa and sour cream add the perfect touch and textures to each wedge. I was going to make guacamole dip and chips, but the avocado-and-cheese quesadilla took on a life of its own. And I’m glad it did. This is definitely a repeat recipe (you can add corn, chicken or beans) in the warmer spring days ahead and upcoming hot summer.
A bonus: To balance the hot meal, serve with a chilled chocolate malt: 1 cup premium vanilla ice cream, 1/4 cup organic low-fat or milk or half-and-half, 2 teaspoons chocolate malt powder. Blend. Top with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon.
Motto: When you plan on making something to eat, sometimes it will end up being a different dish and better than what you expected despite nature’s moves.
— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is www.calorey.com.