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.
I love any dish that includes melted cheese, and it's that much better when Mexican ingredients are added to the mix. But as much as I enjoy the standard recipe, I was pretty sure I could dream up a lighter version.
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. The rest of the filling is vegetables.
I started by cooking bell peppers and onions over medium-high heat until that magic moment when they were golden at the edges but still retained their crunch. I added mushrooms for two reasons - depth of flavor and bulk.
While the recipe calls for cooking in the kitchen, these quesadillas would work well on a camping trip. Just chop all the vegetables and grate the cheese ahead of time and, since there is no oven for keeping them warm, you can cook them and cut them up to share as they are done.
You also can grill the assembled quesadillas over low heat for a few minutes on each side to impart a lovely smokiness.
Wherever and however you cook these beauties, don't forget the avocado, yogurt and cilantro garnish, an important part of the finished product.
MUSHROOM, PEPPER AND ONION QUESADILLAS
Yield: 4 servings
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 the mixture to a bowl.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet along with the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium and saute until the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the onions and peppers. Add to it the jalape?, 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. Cut each quesadilla into quarters, then divide between 4 serving plates. Top each serving with avocado, yogurt and cilantro.