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July 1, 2009

The Coming Up of the Quesadilla


The term quesadilla is not normally associated with the term “lush.” In fact, the quesadilla is held in popular perception to be a simple food, something to be whipped up quickly when effort and better foods are not available.


Much of this is owed to the appearance of the base food involved, the simple tortilla. The tortilla is, put bluntly, meal from grain that is ground and fused together by ancient arts so arcane they can be understood only by the most humble among us.


It is, in fact, the tortilla that will determine the appearance of a quesadilla when cooked all the way. If you use one tortilla, it will need to be folded over at some point, which will give it a distinct taco-like appearance. If you use two, the end result will look like a sandwich that was run over by a steamroller. This owes to the tortilla’s flatness, which reflects its humble, earthy origins.


This, however, does not mean that what fills the space in between need be either earthy or humble.


You may test this by boiling some water. A strange test, admittedly, but things are too new to jump to conclusions. Add some short pieces of raw asparagus, just a couple of inches in length.


While these soften, in a separate pan sauté cut-up chicken breast, chopped pieces of an Italian bacon called pancetta and a little onion in olive oil and garlic.


In an act of wonderful symmetry, the asparagus will be appropriately soft right around the time the chicken is cooked throughout. When this moment occurs, stir the asparagus into the cooked chicken and pancetta. The ingredients will strike up a warm, tasty relationship that you can enhance with some fresh, raw spinach leaves. The spinach will quickly wilt and blend in well. Salt and pepper this to taste.


This is what will occupy the center space in your quesadilla. Is it an unlikely combination for such a humble space? Here we are reminded, appearances can be deceiving.


Meanwhile, heat an oiled skillet that is large enough to accommodate a full tortilla. Once you can feel the warmth rising from the pan, add a tortilla and cover the entire thing with mozzarella cheese.


Top with the chicken and pancetta mix and then top again with mozzarella cheese and some Parmesan.


The tortilla will cook rather quickly and you will not want to burn it. So, either bend it until cooked on both sides, or add another tortilla and flip carefully once one side is cooked thoroughly.


Cook on the other side until the tortilla shows signs of crispiness, but before it appears that it will char. Remove to a plate and allow to cool for a moment or two. Then, cut into pieces as if it were a pie. Except that it isn’t a pie, but rather two humble films of a bread-like substances sandwiched around a symphony of tastes that are vaguely European in nature.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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