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Real Fast Food: Quesadillas

If you can make a grilled cheese sandwich, you can make a quesadilla – something that everyone should call into service for last-minute meals, snacks, even a decent dinner on the couch.

During the hockey playoffs and other occasions that call for eating in front of the TV I try to come up with food that can pull double duty – as something suitably snacky that can be eaten by hand but also (unlike chips) has some nutritional value and could pass as dinner. I don’t need to eat dinner, then sit down to surplus snacks on the couch – this is my kind of multitasking. I haven’t found anything yet that fits the bill as suitably and with more versatility as a quesadilla.

Quesadillas have plenty of selling points. They’re quick to make – you can have an actual balanced meal on the table in under ten minutes – completely customizable if you, like most families, have varying tastes and nutritional needs around the table, and a great use of leftovers – a piece of chicken, beef or pork that isn’t much on its own, roasted vegetables, ends of cheese. I almost always have a can of black beans on the shelf, which rinsed and drained make cheap, nutritious quesadilla filler. They make perfect party food, are ideal when cooking for one or ten, and are portable, so you can wrap one in a napkin and eat it in the car on the way to soccer or serve them cold in lunchboxes. It’s real fast food.

You can cook a quesadilla in a dry skillet or add a slick of oil first – the latter will be crunchier, but also higher in calories. If you don’t want to cook inside, try cooking your quesadilla outdoors, on the grill. The high direct heat is perfect for charring the outside; close the lid to help the cheese melt on the inside.

You won’t need a recipe: make your quesadillas using a single flour tortilla (folded in half) or two, filled sandwich-style (to flip this version, slide it out onto a plate and then invert it back into the pan, if you don’t want to do it freestyle). Use a dry skillet or add a slick of oil – canola or olive – for a crispy exterior. Grate cheddar, monterey Jack, Gouda or any meltable cheese or slice it thinly, so that it melts quickly, and add whatever you like – black beans, finely chopped peppers, onions or tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, cooked chicken, sausage, beef or pork – I like to add a bit of cheese on the bottom and then on top, to act as glue against the tortilla. Cook over medium-high heat until the cheese melts, cut into wedges and serve. If you have salsa, sour cream and/or guacamole, all the better!

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