Thursday, February 19, 2009

Recipe: Mirna's squash blossom quesadillas

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Quesadillas - another food I never encountered before moving to California. In fact, I'm pretty sure that no tortilla ever entered my parents' house while I was growing up in New York suburbia. Ever. I don't even remember tortilla chips. We had good old Ruffles, and pretzels, and the occasional pork rind (that might have been just once).

And before you native West Coasters start gloating and feeling all superior, I'd like to know how many of you ever saw an authentic loaf of corn rye, or a kasha knish, in your house as a child. We all bear the scars of our geography, people.

Anyway, it wasn't until I was 32 and a new mother that the quesadilla entered my life. And it did so quietly, gently, without my even noticing, really. Mirna, the incredible woman who helped me learn the day-to-day art of caring for babies, made quesadillas. For her own lunch, mostly, at first. And then I realized how simple it was: a tortilla, some cheese, fold in half. Like grilled cheese, but flatter and easier. And I was hooked.

[An aside: My seven-year-old son has been in a quesadilla phase for the past year or so. I'd say he eats on average 10 a week, at breakfast, snacktime, or dinner (if he doesn't fancy what I've prepared). I hope no one decides that quesadillas cause cancer - that would be too painful to contemplate.]

Mirna would often go out to the backyard and come in with a handful of something to add to her lunch. She made excellent tuna salad with canned tuna, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and mixed chopped herbs. And when the summer garden was starting to take off, she'd bring in a few bright yellow zucchini flowers and put them in a quesadilla. They tasted - well, a lot like zucchini, only a little tangier and more concentrated. Despite my initial hesitation (flowers in food? I was too young to appreciate the whole nasturtium-in-salad thing in the 80s), I loved them. Now I plant summer squash as much for the flowers that come first as for the vegetables that show up later on.

Mirna's squash blossom quesadillas
  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • 6-8 squash blossoms, washed, stems removed
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Put one tortilla in the skillet; sprinkle the cheese on top, and place the flowers over the cheese. Top with the other tortilla and grill about one minute or until golden brown on the bottom, pressing down with a spatula a few times. Flip and repeat. Cut into wedges and serve. Guacamole makes an excellent partner.

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