The Best Quesadillas

Photo: Randy Graham

I call these the ‘best’ quesadillas because they combine four tasty cheeses with roasted tomatoes and Poblano peppers. What could be better?

Oaxaca (wah-hah-ka) is a white, cow’s-milk cheese with a mozzarella string-like cheese texture. It is made in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and comes in a few different shapes including ball and brick. If shaped into a ball, it is referred to as quesillo Oaxaca or “quesadilla” cheese. If shaped into a brick, it is called Asadero, meaning “roaster” or “broiler” cheese.

Monterey Jack is a true American cheese since the Mexican Franciscan Friars in Monterey, California created it sometime in the 1700s. It is a semi-firm, creamy, mild flavored cow’s cheese. Perfect for quesadillas of any kind.

Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain and aged anywhere from 60 days to two years. It has a firm and compact consistency with a buttery texture. It has a distinctive flavor that is well developed (from aging) but not too strong.

Cotija is a cow’s milk cheese named after the southwestern Mexican town of Cotija, Michoacán, where it was first made. It is made in two varieties: Cotija de Montaña and Cotija Tajo. Montaña or “grain cheese” is dry and firm with little taste other than saltiness. I like the Tajo version because it is moister, fattier, less salty, and similar to Greek Feta cheese.

If you can’t find Oaxaca cheese, substitute Mozzarella. Monterey Jack is easy to find. If no Manchego, substitute Parmesan. Cotija is also easy to find. If you can’t find it, ask for it. Cotija makes a big difference in the taste and texture of these quesadillas.

4 plum tomatoes (quartered lengthwise)
3 large Poblano chiles
4 10-inch flour tortillas
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh Oaxaca cheese (grated)
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese (grated)
1 cup Manchego cheese (grated)
2 to 3 ounces Cotija cheese (crumbled)
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano

Preheat the broiler and set a rack about 6 inches from the heat.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the tomatoes and Poblano peppers on the sheet. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes, turning the tomatoes once, until softened and charred in spots. Remove from the oven and transfer the tomatoes to a work surface. Return the peppers to the oven and broil for 6 to 7 minutes longer, turning occasionally, until charred all over.

Photo: Randy Graham

Let the tomatoes and peppers cool. Coarsely chop the tomatoes. Peel, seed, and stem the chiles and then thinly slice them crosswise.

Preheat a cast-iron griddle or large, heavy skillet. Brush the tortillas with olive oil. Toast the tortillas on the hot griddle, turning once, until browned in spots and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

In a bowl, toss together the Oaxaca, Monterey Jack and Manchego cheeses. Arrange 2 tortillas on each of 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Sprinkle this cheese mixture over the tortillas, covering the entire surface. Scatter the tomatoes and peppers over the cheese. Top each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of Cotija and 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.

Broil the quesadillas two at a time, about 6 inches from the heat, until the cheese is just melted. Transfer the quesadillas to a work surface, cut into wedges, and serve while you broil the second batch.

About Valley Vegetarian

The fresh chef providing consistently good vegetarian comfort food recipes.
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