Monday, May 2, 2011

i'm telling you anyway

Oh, friends, is this what we've been reduced to? Two weeks without a post followed by a recipe for quesadillas? You don't need me to tell you how to make a quesadilla any more than you need me to tell you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. But here we go: Spinach and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas.

I'm not making excuses when I tell you that these quesadillas are more than just cheese melted between a couple of tortillas. Or when I tell you this recipe is actually a riff on one I read in a cookbook years ago (apparently someone needed a recipe for quesadillas). Or that the presence of caramelized onions transforms these from your average gooey Tex Mex snack into something a little more, shall we say, gourmet.

The presence of caramelized onions also transforms these from a quick bite into something that requires a little more time to make: The onions should be cooked for a long time over low heat, until they're sweet, soft echoes of their former pungent, eye-watering selves. But it's so worth it. Not just because you end up with a shall-we-say-gourmet quesadilla, but because if you play your tortillas right, you'll end up with leftovers, which reheat beautifully. Serve with a little diced avocado and salsa, maybe a side salad, and you've got the perfect weeknight meal; eat the leftovers for lunch, or as a quick, gooey not-quite-Tex-Mex snack.

A few notes:
* I know I promised a recipe above, but this is more of a guide, as I never measure or time anything when making these (they are, after all, quesadillas), and you should vary the amounts to reflect your tastes. That said, the onions cook down quite a bit in volume, and their flavor is so mild and sweet, I can't imagine you'd want to use less than the recommended two.
* Because I actually love whole-wheat tortillas, that's what I use; if you prefer white or corn, use those.
* I usually serve these with diced avocado and my favorite salsa, but you could mash the avocado with lime juice and salt, or, god forbid, exert a little more effort and make actual guacamole.

Spinach and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas
1 tablespoon + a splash of olive oil
2 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
pinch of salt
5 ounces baby spinach
8 medium-sized tortillas (not the huge-ass ones, not the teeny tiny ones)
5 ounces shredded cheddar or Jack cheese
1 avocado, cubed

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir to coat the onions with oil. Reduce the heat to low-ish and cook for a long time (~30-45 minutes), stirring occasionally (if after a few minutes you hear any sizzling, the heat is too high). The onions will soften and yellow and start to break down; when they're very soft and golden colored, they're done. Remove them from the pan and chop them coarsely.

Add another splash of oil to the pan, turn the heat to high, and when the oil is shimmering, quickly saute the spinach. Remove it to a plate and drain off any excess liquid.

Assemble the quesadillas: Lay out four tortillas and sprinkle them with cheese, the chopped onions, and the spinach, then place another tortilla on top. Cook quesadillas individually in a your skillet over medium heat (no oil necessary), turning once, until the tortilla is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Remove from pan, cut into sixths, and serve with avocado.


  1. And here I was planning to have a gooey cheese free dinner, just for once while I still have arteries. Back in the fridge with that Tofu. I've got spinach, I've got onions, I've got Tortillas, and now I know how to use 'em.

  2. I want this for breakfast! My string cheese/banana/iced coffee combo is really not working now that I've read this post.

    Also, I'm obsessed with salsa. Out of curiosity, I clicked on your salsa link. I've never tried Herdez so I used their mapping thing to find a store. There are two results within a five mile radius of 05401...KMart and Dollar General?! Do you buy your salsa at KMart? If so, that's amazing and you're awesome.

  3. So happy to know you are a Herdez fan too. I grew up in a heavily Mexican suburb of LA and have never been able to tolerate the sweet bland things passed off as salsa. Herdez, which for some blessed reason our local store stocks in cans, is a saving grace for me.
    By the way, the NYT had a Cinco de Mayo collection of recipes with a great tomato, chile and peanut salsa. Try it. I love it.

  4. I hope you liked them, DED, and that your arteries did, too!

    LMC, I used to buy Herdez at Healthy Living, but now I'm obviously going to buy it at KMart.

    That salsa looks deelish, Sidekick. What do you eat it with?