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Jack and Avocado Quesadilla Triangles

Makes 2 servings

Quesadillas at their most basic. Cutting the rounds into triangles helps prevent mouth burns from hot cheese. Add crushed red pepper flakes to the cheese if you like things spicy. I would never object to chopped fresh cilantro or chives in the avocado mash.

1 medium ripe avocado, halved, pitted

¼ teaspoon salt

Chopped fresh cilantro or chives, optional

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Crushed red pepper flakes or smoked paprika, optional

4 flour tortillas (6 inch)

Scoop avocado pulp into a small bowl. Roughly mash with a spoon; season with salt and cilantro, if using.

Heat a well-seasoned or nonstick griddle over medium heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add 2 tortillas in a single layer. Top each with ½ cup of the cheese, spreading it to within ½ inch of the edge. Sprinkle each with pepper flakes, if using, then a second tortilla. When the bottom tortilla is hot and a bit golden, about 1 minute, carefully flip to brown and heat the other side, about 30 seconds.

Transfer to a cutting board; cut each into 6 wedges. Serve right away with the mashed avocado.

Per serving: 572 calories, 37 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 41 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 22 g protein, 1,217 mg sodium, 9 g fiber

Caramelized Onion, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Makes 2 quesadillas

I also like this with the creamy soft-ripened cow's milk cheese from Dorothy's Creamery in Lena, Ill. Brie or camembert work well, too.

2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola, safflower or sunflower oil

½ small yellow onion, very thinly sliced

4 asparagus spears, chopped

Salt to taste

2 very fresh corn tortillas, about 6 inches in diameter

3 to 4 ounces crumbled soft goat cheese

Chopped fresh cilantro

Roasted tomato salsa

Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the oil and the onion. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes. Add asparagus; cook and stir until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Transfer to a plate.

Heat a nonstick or well-seasoned griddle over medium heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and add tortillas. Turn once to coat tortillas with oil. Heat until softened, about 30 seconds. Immediately top half of each tortilla with half of the onion mixture and half of the crumbled cheese. Fold tortillas in half to enclose the filling. Press with a flexible spatula to compact everything. Cook until tortillas crisp a bit; flip to crisp the other side, 1 to 1½ minutes. Serve hot sprinkled with cilantro. Pass the salsa.

Per serving: 231 calories, 16 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 53 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 9 g protein, 209 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

Skillet Provolone With Salad

Makes 4 appetizer servings

The thickness of the cheese is more important here than the shape. I have used a wedge of imported provolone, squares of kasserie cheese and two half-moon-shaped pieces of domestic provolone. All will work here, as long as they are ¾- to 1-inch thick. Cut away any rind before cooking.

1 chunk aged provolone cheese (¾-inch thick) or 2 smaller chunks with the same thickness, totaling about 12 ounces

1½ cups halved cherry tomatoes

1 cup sliced baby romaine or baby salad greens

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 to 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano or { teaspoon dried

Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

4 to 8 thick slices crusty bread, warmed

Let cheese rest, unwrapped, at room temperature while you get everything else ready. You can leave the cheese out uncovered for several hours.

Shortly before serving, heat oven to 200 degrees. Mix the tomatoes and lettuce in a bowl. Season with the olive oil, vinegar and a pinch each of the parsley and oregano.

Turn on the exhaust fan over the stove. Heat a small (6- or 7-inch diameter) seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Reduce the heat to low. Add the chunk of cheese; sprinkle with half the remaining parsley and oregano, and crushed red pepper to taste. Cook until the bottom of the cheese starts to brown and the middle starts to soften and ooze, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs and pepper flakes. Continue to cook until the bottom of the cheese is golden brown but not hard, 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the bread on a baking sheet in the oven for a few minutes. Transfer bread to a basket; cover with a towel to keep warm.

Serve the hot cheese right away, straight from the skillet, topped with some of the salad. Scoop the cheese onto the bread slices and pass remaining salad.

Per serving: 427 calories, 27 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 59 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 25 g protein, 919 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

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