Comfort and ease: That’s what quesadillas have always represented to me, since the very first time I folded a tortilla over some cheese.
You can complicate almost any dish, but it’s pretty hard to do that with quesadillas. There’s not much room on a 6-inch corn tortilla, so you’ve got to keep the fillings pretty minimal. My favorites are beans and mushrooms. For the former, use whatever you have cooked — or in the can. Just warm the beans and mash them lightly with some spices (cumin and smoked paprika are my favorites) and a squeeze of lime if you’ve got it.
For the latter, I’ve always just winged it, often using leftover roasted mushrooms from one of my weekend big-batch roasting sessions. But I love the approach Diala Canelo takes in her new book, “Diala’s Kitchen,” sauteing the mushrooms with aromatic vegetables and spices before stuffing them into the tortillas with cheese, griddling and folding. She holds to the nothing-complicated rule of quesadilla making but adds nice touches: a little fresh parsley and fresh mozzarella instead of the more easy-to-come-by low-moisture variety. Both, incidentally, are optional.
I was a little skeptical about the use of fresh cheese because I worried it would make the filling watery. Instead, it provides just enough moisture inside, while getting a little charred and crisp in spots where it oozes out of the tortilla in the pan. Part-skim mozzarella will work well, too. Either way, you’ll end up with two words that make my mouth water: fried cheese.
In true quesadilla spirit, please feel free to adapt this to your own pantry and refrigerator situation right now. If you have a stash of dried mushrooms, employ them here, but if you don’t, use whatever you have that tastes good. A jar of roasted red peppers? Some leftover slaw? Sweet potatoes? Go for it.