Ben Herrera's wonderfully exotic and captivating site is far from being insipid or ordinary and the same can be said about its buoyant author. As a matter of fact, both stand out of the crowd and have their own personality. That is the reason why I have been following What's Cooking Mexico? religiously for about 4 years and have not missed a single post since 2008.
This Mexico City native is passionate about food and his country's versatile cuisine. He knows how to fascinate you with his detailed and informative articles that combine history and anthopology, delightfully colorful pictures, traditional recipes and mouthwaterringly fresh, refined, spicy and vibrant dishes. A blog that deserves much recognition.
Being a big fan of Ben's extraordinary work, it is with much pleasure that I am hosting one of his posts today on Rosa's Yummy Yums. Thanks for having given me the opportunity to showcase your talents and to share your "Quesadilla" wisdom with my readers. That is so kind of you!
I’m almost certain that the majority of people around the world who have internet access and some kind of food curiosity know what a quesadilla is.
The word quesadilla comes from the combination of the Spanish words queso (cheese) and tortilla, Mexican flat bread made with nixtamalized corn (if you’d like to know more about this process please visit this link). The quesadilla can contain different kinds of fillings other than cheese. In Mexico the variety is endless. There are meat and vegetarian quesadillas. Some are small and others so large that they can be considered a full meal. Some are cooked on a griddle and some are deep fried until they’re crispy.
In those parts of the world that have adopted the quesadilla, even more different variations are prepared. For example, in the American Southwest, a quesadilla is a very popular food made with flour tortillas and filled with cheese, chicken, salsa and other ingredients.
However, all quesadillas from all over the world have something in common. No matter what kind of tortilla or filling is used to make them, they all have cheese. All, that is, except Mexico City quesadillas. But didn’t the word quesadilla mean tortilla AND cheese, you may ask? Yes, but in the valley of Mexico City and surrounding areas your quesadillas may or may not come with cheese.
I love street food and I find myself eating quesadillas, tlacoyos or gorditas very often from vendors that look like the lady from the picture above. For some reason only women sell this kind of food and most of the time they cook them right in front of you from fresh masa (corn dough). White and yellow corns are the most popular varieties, but blue corn quesadillas are easy to find in the streets of the city, too.
However, I have to remember to order cheese with my quesadillas every time. This is the quesadilla paradox. Why is it this way in Mexico City? Nobody seems to know, and the rest of the country (and I’m pretty sure the world, too) finds it silly and makes fun of our way of eating quesadillas.
Many people argue that quesadillas without queso are only tacos. But chilangos (people from Mexico City) strongly defend their position with arguments that this is the way quesadillas have been eaten since pre-Columbian times when cattle, and therefore cheese, didn’t exist in the Americas.
I’m not going to defend either position. For me a quesadilla is more than cheese and a tortilla. The filling and the sauce inside the quesadilla is really what makes them so delicious. However, I’ll try to answer the question that is on everyone’s mind: What makes Mexico City quesadillas different from tacos? The answer, after some research that involved eating a lot of them on the streets of the city, is not easy or clear, but this is how I would describe them:
A Mexico City quesadilla is a paddy of corn masa that is filled with different ingredients. The masa is ALWAYS fresh and it can be cooked on a griddle or deep fried in vegetable oil.
If cooked on a griddle the corn paddies are USUALLY oval and thin. The corn masa is cooked first and then filled and folded with the ingredient of choice.
If deep fried, the corn masa is filled with the ingredient of choice and folded BEFORE going into the deep fryer.
In both cases salsa is added at the end, usually by the customer. Other ingredients such as chopped cactus paddies, onion, cilantro or cream may be added to the quesadilla.
The list of fillings is endless, but my personal favorites are: chicken, quelites (wild greens), mushrooms and squash blossom. And here is where I finally come to the delicious part. The following is my recipe to prepare a quesadilla (with cheese) with mushrooms and squash blossom. It’s a very easy recipe, but what makes this quesadilla delicious is fresh and quality ingredients.
Mushroom and Squash Blossom Quesadillas
- 100g Mushrooms, sliced
- 100g Squash blossom, without the stems and washed
- 1 Tbs Butter
- 1/4 White onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 to 6 Corn tortillas
- 1/2 Cup Oaxaca cheese, or any other kind of melting Mexican cheese
- Guacamole, salsa or any other topping of your choice
- In a skillet melt butter and add onion to sauté.
- Add mushrooms and stir constantly until they’re cooked, around 5 minutes.
- Add squash blossom and season to taste. Stir for a couple of minutes until the blossoms are cooked. They don’t take long so be very careful not to overcook them.
- On a griddle or comalover low heat, heat up one tortilla. After about 45 seconds turn it over and put some of the mushrooms and squash blossom with a little bit of cheese.
- Fold in half and heat each side for about two minutes.
- Serve with salsa, avocado or any other topping of your choice.