What’s stranger than a Frenchman overcooking a steak? An Italian making a quesadilla.
Well, I’m only half Italian, but I have never made a quesadilla before. I’m probably pronouncing the word wrong in my head right now. For all of the haters who are thinking, “Haha, you don’t pronounce the Ls!” I reply, “You think you are so smart, do you know how to make a creme brulee? …If you do, can you teach me?”
Back to quesadillas. I am aware that there are two main versions of this dish: one with two tortillas with the filling in between, and the second uses one tortilla flipped into two halves. The latter is what I used for this recipe, partially because it is more conducive to one-person dining, and primarily because flipping double-tortilla quesadilla looks very intimidating for a first timer. Remember, I’m half Italian. Cut me some slack.
You might think when I try a Mexican dish for the first time, I’ll stick to the classic ingredients like black beans, salsa, and guacamole. But as you can tell by the title of this recipe, that is not the case. You can take an Italian to Mexico but you can’t make her eat Mexican… Well, that was a terrible spin-off of a proverb. Ignore that. Moving on.
In any case, this is a Mediterranean version of a quesadilla. The trick for a perfect quesadilla is the have the outside tortilla perfectly browned. If it’s underbaked, the quesadilla is too floppy and the delicious filling will spill all over your hands. In this state, you will be forced to eat it with a fork and knife, and that would be blasphemy. However, you also do not want the tortilla to become too brown. Afterall, who likes burned quesadillas? You want some guacamole with that ash?
The timing for the perfectly crisp quesadilla is hard to measure because we all use different pans and stoves with different temperatures. Yet here is a very nonconventional and unprofessional tip: When the quesadilla is on the frying pan, walk away. The watched quesadilla never browns. (Phew, that was a much better proverb spin-off. Cyber high five!)
Go wash the dishes, check your email, call your mother, practice piano, read a book, remember you don’t play the piano, find Botswana on the globe, go do anything but watch the frying pan. For how long? That is hard to tell. Wait for when the quesadilla has completely slipped from your mind and you have a moment of panic that the tortilla has burned. You run to the pan in a frenzy to flip it, only to find the quesadilla is a blissful shade of golden brown.
It’s a daring technique that can backfire horribly, but it works (sometimes).
By the way, Botswana is situated toward the bottom of Africa.
- 1 eggplant, cubed
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 cup diced tomatoes, or halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup spinach
- 1/3 cup hummus
- 3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) goat cheese
- 6 gluten-free tortillas
- Sautee the eggplant and spices in the oil for 20 minutes, covered, on medium-low heat.
- Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach to the eggplant and stir on low heat for 1–2 minutes until well-combined and the spinach is slightly wilted.
- Spray a wide pan with non-stick spray and set it on low heat.
- Place the tortilla onto the pan and spread about 1/2–1 tbsp of hummus on half of the tortilla.
- Add a few generous spoonfuls of the eggplant mixture to the hummus side of the tortilla, and spread evenly.
- Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of goat cheese over the eggplant mixture.
- Flip the empty side of the tortilla over the filling and press down slightly.
- Raise the temperature to medium-low and allow the face-down side of the tortilla to bake for about 4–7 minutes until it is browned and crispy.
- Carefully flip the tortilla over to bake the other side. I suggest you insert your spatula under the open side of the tortilla while flipping to prevent the filling from spilling out.
- Repeat with other tortillas, respraying the pan in between each quesadilla.
- Slice the quesadillas in half and serve hot.
Makes about 6 quesadillas.