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Quesadillas stuffed with eggplant

Posted Sep 27 2008 6:13am

I watched a cooking show on public television last weekend, and there was a Mexican cook making all sorts of stuff. First he made adobo sauce which looked fantastic, until he added cream. Then he made enchilladas stuffed with shredded chicken (Yes, this is a vegan blog. I won't be using chicken.) and covered them with the adobo sauce and cheese. He made spinach- stuffed poblano peppers and baked them with ranchero sauce and more cheese and cream. Then he used more shredded chicken to make quesadillas.

I am sheepishly admitting that until I watched this show, I never really knew what a quesadilla was. I had been planning to cook some eggplant from our CSA for lunch and when I found some leftover whole wheat tortillas in the refrigerator, I knew this would be the day I prepared and ate my first quesadilla. Do traditional quesadillas have eggplant inside? Can't say. But quesadillas are basically a sandwich, so the fillings probably vary widely.

My husband had also just purchased our first roll (it comes in a long roll) of Teese, the much acclaimed vegan cheese from Chicago. This stuff actually tastes like real cheese. There's honestly no comparison with any of the other fake cheeses we've tried. I popped a piece in my mouth and WHOA. Couldn't believe it. So it was quesadilla time in the cookeasyvegan household. I only made one so I'm not giving ingredient quantities. Make as much as you need.

First I dredged 1/4 inch slices of baby eggplant in potato flour* and sautéed them in a cast iron pan with just a little olive oil and a little extra spray oil when I turned the slices over. I cooked the eggplant until the slices were browned and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I added fresh ground pepper and a tiny sprinkle of salt. As I've mentioned before, I don't like to salt vegetables when their incredible fresh flavor is so intense anyway. In this case, I also knew I'd be using other non-homemade ingredients with added salt (tortillas, salsa, cheese) and that the salt content would be on the heavy side. I prefer to make my own tortillas and salsa but this was a quick dish and I didn't have time.

To assemble the quesadillas, spread grated or thinly sliced vegan cheese on a large tortilla. Next place a layer of cooked eggplant. I think the TV chef used a top layer of cheese on the chicken quesadillas but I didn't. Cover with the second tortilla and press down to seal the edges. (This part is theoretical—my edges didn't seal but this wasn't a problem because of how I cooked them.)

The TV cook used a heavy griddle, but I used my waffle iron. I reversed the plates so the smooth grill side rather than the waffle side was exposed. (My iron has reversible plates but I think most of them do.) I placed the quesadilla in the preheated iron and within seconds I heard a hiss. The Teese was melting and oozing out! How perfect. The tortillas were crisp on the outside, the cheese was melted and the filling was warm, just as the TV cook said it should be. He cut his quesadilla into eight slices and offered them with a choice of pico de gallo or guacamole, which sounded great, but all I had on hand was fire-roasted salsa, so I used that.
With a large spatula, transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board, cool for a minute and cut into eight wedges. Serve with the toppings of your choice.

My husband and I both agreed that the quesadilla was really, really good.

*potato flour. I've been experimenting with potato flour and potato starch. I've added the flour to bread to see how the taste and texture would be affected, and I've added the starch to cake to for the same reason. The flour will make baked goods more dense and the starch is used to lighten the texture. Potato flour is made from whole potatoes, and if you taste it, it tastes just like baked potatoes. It is gluten-free and can be used as a thickener in sauces and soups. You can also use it as a coating for sauteeing vegetables like eggplant. It enriches the flavor with a slight potato taste and helps create a crispy crust, much as flour would.
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