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Friday, August 27, 2010


Whenever I think of quesadillas, I remember my friend Christy.  Sitting in her home in San Diego one day, I watched her whip up some quesadillas for her young daughters.  Before that, I (being from a rural area of Virginia) thought that quesadillas were something complicated that restaurants made:  not people in their own home.  But when I saw her do it, I thought, "That's as easy as making a grilled cheese sandwich!"  And it is (that easy) because it is (a grilled cheese sandwich).  It just uses tortillas instead of bread.  :)

To make a quesadilla, I...
1. heat a frying pan and put a nice pat of butter in it
2. as that melts, put a tortilla (flour or corn, take your pick) in the pan
3. add a generous (because you can never have too much queso) amount of cheese (I like Costco's shredded Mexican cheese blend, but any ol' cheese will work)
4. add anything else you want...this is where it gets could use tomatoes, black olives, onions (white, red, green, yellow, whatever), cilantro, corn, black beans, kidney beans, take-your-pick beans, jalapenos (or any other hot pepper, depending on your preference), leftover chicken, leftover hamburger, leftover steak, I even used leftover lamb last evening since we have any abundance of lamb right now from the sheep my husband butchered recently (with the meat, I've found it easiest to make sure it's shredded or bite-size before putting it in the quesadilla)...really, the sky's the limit with this
5. put another tortilla on top
6. add some butter on top of that
7. when the bottom tortilla gets nicely browned, the cheese will probably have started to melt beautifully, and it's time to turn it over (which is the hardest part)...I use a big spatula--and my fingers--but even still, I don't always do it "perfectly"...that's OK--a little mess never ruined a quesadilla  :)
8. brown the other side a little, make sure everything is heated through, slide it onto a plate, use a pizza cutter to slice it, and...
9. dig in!

I like to serve this with salsa and sour cream to dip the quesadilla wedges into.  That, combined with Sun Chips and baby carrots, made a delicious meal for my family that required exactly the amount of prep time I had last night:  not much at all!!  :)

Happy Mexican-food feasting (even if it is Mexican with a touch of Virginia country)!  ;-)

Every region has its own Mexican food, and they're very chauvinistic--they believe their food is the real Mexican food.
~ Russ Parson


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Roasted eggplants with spring onions

We grew eggplants for the very first time this year -- in a five-gallon bucket! The plant itself is beautiful, with its broad, purple-veined leaves, and we've been amazed at how much our little plant, with only five gallons of soil to sustain its roots, can produce.

an eggplant blossom in July

Here's a dish we recently prepared with the bounty of our modest container garden. It's a variation on a recipe from Best-Ever Curry Cookbook by Mridula Baljekar. I've modified the original version to allow for Asian eggplants. I also substituted olive oil for vegetable oil, yellow mustard seeds for black, and some random kind of hot pepper growing in my backyard for the red chili pepper.

Served over brown jasmine rice, it was delicious and nourishing.

Roasted eggplants with spring onions

Serves 4

Brown jasmine rice
2 large eggplants (or 5 of the small, long Asian variety)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 large bunch spring onions (bigger is actually better in this case), finely sliced
4 oz. button mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh red chili (or equivalent amount of any hot pepper you have on hand)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few extra sprigs to garnish

*Note: brown jasmine rice takes a while (40-45 minutes) to cook, so you might want to start the rice ahead of the rest of the dish*

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place eggplants on a baking sheet and brush with 2 Tbsp. of the oil. Prick each one with a fork, then roast until soft (about 15 minutes for the small Asian variety; 30-35 minutes for large conventional eggplants).

2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and the mustard seeds in a large skillet for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat (the seeds may start to splutter). Add the onions, mushrooms, garlic, and chili pepper, and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. While the tomatoes are simmering, cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the soft flesh into a bowl. Mash the flesh with a fork.

4. Add the eggplant flesh to the pan with the chopped cilantro. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes until the sauce thickens. Serve over brown jasmine rice, garnished with cilantro.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Santa Fe Chicken Soup

This simple recipe is one of my favorites...and when I say simple, I mean really simple. After all, you don't even have to drain the canned goods! That is taking simple to a whole new level. :)

Everyone for whom I've made this has pronounced it delicious, and it's certainly a soup that I'm always glad to see pop up in my menu rotation. At the moment, I'm happy to know that there is, in my refrigerator, a bowl of this that was left-over from lunch I made for friends today; I'm looking forward to having it tomorrow!

What You Need
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 onion, diced
15 1/4 oz. can whole-kernel corn, undrained
24 oz. can pinto beans, undrained
10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
1/4 c. milk

What You Do
Put everything in the crockpot. Cover. Turn on. :) Cook on low 3-4 hours, or until cheese is melted. Try not to let soup boil. (I've also made this soup in a pot on the stove, especially when I was running out of time, and that works fine, too. But the crockpot is even more convenient.)

* Depending on the spice tolerance of those for whom I make this, I sometimes omit the diced tomatoes and green chilies, and add plain diced tomatoes instead. I personally like the extra zing that comes from the green chilies (and it's not a very spicy zing, just a little tiny one), but at times, it seems best to omit the spice and let each person add it individually to their own comfort level.

Happy soup-serving!

To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night,
all you really need is soup.
~ Laurie Colwin


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