Last week* I mentioned that we’d been on a big breakfast-for-dinner spree this winter, less out of a noble desire for inexpensive, balanced, wholesome meals and more because scrambling eggs at the last minute allows us to go all the way to 15 minutes before dinner to come up with an idea for it, which is meal-planning equivalent of the heavens opening up and glorifying all of my late-afternoon lethargy at last.
The other kick we’ve been on since the beginning of the year is passing off anything we can put in, on, or near a tortilla as dinner, leading to a steady rotation our go-to fajitas, beef tacos, black bean tacos and, in a mash-up of both the breakfast and tortilla benders, scrambled egg tacos. Many of you asked “how” I got my son to eat such foods as scrambled eggs and tacos, and while I’m tempted to take credit for it (“it’s the rainbow of local organic produce and definitely not the daily succession of pb&j sandwiches I ate while he was in the womb!”) it would be dishonest when it’s been more due to random outside influences. The grandmother of one of my son’s classmates brought in warm — warm! freshly cooked! how I long to be a kindergartener most days! — quesadillas for snack a few weeks ago, and it’s all he’s talked about since. Plus, since it fit into our all-tortillas-all-the-time meal plan, I set about finding a way to pass it off as dinner.
If we’re being honest, it got two cranky thumbs down from the kid** but we adults loved them so much, we are placing this in the permanent rotation and think you should too. First, char a mild-to-hot pepper or two and while it’s steaming its way out of its skin, cook a head of cauliflower at a blistering high heat in a big skillet and until your smoke alarm maybe goes off (sorry) and it’s equal parts tender, crisp and totally worth it. Mix this with the pepper, scallions, lime juice, salt and an unholy amount of shredded cheese, fry it between two small tortillas, make a lazy slaw (or whatever your salad of choice is) and wonder why you’re not eating “taco grilled cheese” (the kid’s words, not mine) for dinner more often. Seriously, why aren’t you? I think you should fix this tonight.
* before I lost a few days work when an unfortunate interaction between my laptop and a glass of water taught me some Very Important Life Lessons about file storage, p.s. you are owed banana pudding.
One year ago: Garlicky Party Bread with Cheese and Herbs and Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
Two years ago: Pasta and White Beans with Garlic-Rosemary Oil
Three years ago: Cheddar, Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread
Four years ago: Mushroom and Farro (or Barley) Soup
Five years ago: Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes and New York Deli Rye Bread
Six years ago: Flaky Blood Orange Tart and Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
Seven years ago: Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree and Candied Grapefruit Peels
Eight years ago: Icebox Cake
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Three-Ingredient Summertime Salsa and Blueberry Crumb Cake
1.5 Years Ago: Banana, Nutella and Salted Pistachio Popsicles and Charred Corn Crepes
2.5 Years Ago: Zucchini Rice Gratin and Pink Lemonade Bars
3.5 Years Ago: Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas
Poblanos are very mild hot peppers. You could use fewer or swap them with a small bell pepper for less heat, or swap one or both with a hotter jalapeño or other chile for more heat.
Yield: 6 quesadillas, serves 6
2 small or 1 large fresh poblano chiles
1 small head cauliflower, cored and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking quesadillas
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 cups (about 8 ounces) coarsely grated monterey jack cheese
12 small (7-inch) flour tortillas
Char peppers: Over a gas burner turned to high, hold the poblanos over the flame with tongs and char them until they are black and blistered all over. Alternatively, you could do this under a broiler, turning them frequently for even blistering. Transfer hot chiles to a bowl and cover tightly with foil. Set aside to steam and let their skins loosen while you cook the cauliflower.
Char cauliflower: In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper, until it’s evenly coated. Heat your largest heaviest frying pan over high heat until almost smoking, add cauliflower, and let it cook until each piece has a few black spots but is not mushy, turning and moving it frequently to ensure even cooking. This will take 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer florets to cutting board to rest.
Mix filling: When poblanos are cool enough to handle, peel the charred skin off with your fingertips or a paring knife. Pull out and discard stems and seed clusters, and slice peppers into 1/4-inch wide strips. Add to cauliflower on board and give both a rough chop together, reducing the cauliflower to no bigger than 1/2-inch chunks. Return cauliflower and peppers to the large bowl, add scallions, lime juice and salt to taste. You should have about 2 cups of cauliflower filling.
Assemble and cook quesadillas: Lay out 6 tortillas and spread 1/3 cup cauliflower filling and 1/3 cup shredded cheese to each. Place second 6 tortillas on top as lids. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, coat lightly with olive oil and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook quesadillas until browned underneath, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully a flip — a large, thin spatula like my favorite kind helps here — and repeat on the second side. Repeat with remaining quesadillas.
To serve: Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve with your choice of fixings. Two of my favorites are below.
1/2 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
A few gratings fresh lime zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of salt
Combine, adjust seasonings to taste, and serve alongside quesadillas.
Lazy Taco Slaw
1 bag coleslaw mix or (as used here) 3 cups finely shredded red cabbage and 1 coarsely grated carrot
Juice of half a lime
2 scallions, sliced thin
A dollop of mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt
A dash of hot sauce (optional)
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves
Toss cabbage mix, salt and lime together in a large bowl; set aside for 5 minutes. It will shrink down a bit. Stir in scallions, then mayo and hot sauce. Adjust seasonings/ingredients to taste, then stir in cilantro leaves. Serve alongside quesadillas or any of your favorite tortilla-clad meals.