Full-fat cheese the key to healthy, delicious quesadilla

The Associated PressMay 29, 2013 

Food-Healthy-Quesadillas

Mushroom, pepper and onion quesadillas.

MATTHEW MEAD — The Associated Press

At heart, a quesadilla is pretty much a Mexican grilled cheese. Take a tortilla, stuff it with something savory, add some cheese, fold it in half and toast it. It's also pretty delicious.

I discovered that it doesn't take a ton of cheese to flavor - and glue together - the fillings of a quesadilla. as long as you use full-fat cheese. Using just 2 ounces of full-fat sharp cheddar was an immediate hit.

The rest of the filling is vegetables. I added mushrooms for two reasons - depth of flavor and bulk. Carnivores like to think of mushrooms as steak for vegetarians.

Any kind of mushroom would be welcome here, but I favor a mix of cremini and shiitake.

A cast-iron skillet is the perfect pan in which to cook this recipe or, if you happen to own one, a Mexican comal, the pan usually used for making tortillas. If you use your iron skillet often and care for it with love, it becomes almost stick-resistant, which means you won't need much oil to cook the quesadillas. You also can grill the assembled quesadillas over low heat for a few minutes on each side to impart a lovely smokiness.

If you throw together a quick coleslaw to serve on the side - dressing it with lime juice and a tiny bit of vegetable oil - you can easily stretch this into a full meal.

MUSHROOM, PEPPER AND ONION QUESADILLAS

Start to finish: 30 minutes; servings: 4

1 firm ripe avocado, diced

1 tablespoon lime juice

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup chopped red or green bell pepper (or a mix)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cups assorted sliced mushrooms

1/2 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds and ribs discarded, if desired)

2 ounces coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese

Four 8-inch flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat

Nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, toss the diced avocado with the lime juice and a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a large, preferably cast-iron skillet over medium-high, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil. Add the onion, bell pepper and a pinch of salt, then saute until golden at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet along with the mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium and saute until the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the onions and peppers. Add to it the jalapeno, cheese and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix well.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Coat it with cooking spray.

Set 2 of the tortillas flat on the counter. Divide the onion-pepper mixture between them, spreading it evenly over each. Press a second tortilla firmly over each.

Heat the skillet over medium. Add one quesadilla and toast until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with the second quesadilla, placing it on the baking sheet when toasted. Bake for 5 minutes, or until just heated through. Top each serving with avocado, yogurt and cilantro.

Nutrition per serving: 350 calories; 180 calories from fat (51 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 32 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 12 g protein; 520 mg sodium.

Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks.

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