Tacos, fajitas, burritos, quesadillas… It all sounds delicious but can be easily confused. Most of us know the differences, but just in case, let’s clarify what we are talking about today. According to the Academia Mexicana de la Lengua, a “quesadilla” is:
s.f. Mx. Tortilla de maíz doblada por la mitad y rellena de queso o cualquier otro alimento, frita o cocida en comal: Pedí que me preparara una quesadilla de papa, una de pollo y dos de quesillo.
which translates to a corn tortilla, folded in half and filled with cheese or any other ingredients, fried or cooked in a comal.
Quesadillas can seem a very simple and unintentional dish, but in truth, there is a lot of history tied to this delicious comforty food. To start off, let’s clear something up: the old Mexicans, mexicas, or wrongly named aztecas, never really consumed any cheese, because there was none in their territory. The only milk they knew was their mom’s. It was during the colonisation period after 1521, when the Spanish had a huge and very interesting influence on Mexican culture. The Spanish brought with them new varieties of livestock (cows, pigs, sheep) and, with them, new culinary influences. Mexico introduced a variety of foods to the Spanish as well: peanuts, chocolate, vanilla, beans, avocados, coconuts, corn, squash, and tomatoes. By sharing their traditional foods, Mexicans and Spanish were able to develop and innovate their recipes. The most well known Mexican cheese is the Oaxaca, which honours the city it was born in and is a great example of how new produce introduced is adapted to the local culture. Most Mexican dishes with cheese are made with this particular one.
There are also slightly different meanings given to the same word in the country: in Mexico City a quesadilla is a corn tortilla filled with almost anything cooked or with cheese, but in the rest of the nation it is a tortilla filled with cheese exclusively. Also, in the North of Mexico they would use more flour tortillas and in the South corn ones. However, there is a whole world surrounding these treats. They vary in form, filling and cooking method. My personal favourite is the sincronizada, and the recipe today is my own variant of this type of quesadilla.
If you would like to learn more about the types of quesadillas, click here.
Why have this happiness-filled tortillas become so popular? Well, we all know why, they are easy, juicy and comforting. So rather, how? After doing some research on the topic I found out that, like many other things that we love, it was originally popularised in the US and then arrived here to Europe. You know, when the US sneezes the world catches a cold. Mexicans have been wrapping tortillas around meat and veggies since the ancient times, but the taco for example didn’t get to the US until the refugees brought it in with them during the Mexican Revolution c. 1910-1020. What I am still trying to figure out is why the quesadilla started to become a thing in the 1980s. My guess is that with the boom of Tex-Mex in the 1970-80s, the mix of Mexican and Tejano (Texan) cuisine grew popular among the Americans as well as more intertwined, combining the cheddar, beef and wheat with more traditional Mexican dishes.
This particular recipe is a mix between quesadilla and a sincronizada. I normally make a very Spanishy or Catalan version of food I like because, in all honesty, we all have our roots and can’t help reflecting that in how we cook (or paint, dance, sing, speak…).
I hope you like it as much as I do. It is a quick-fix for almost any time of the day and you can throw in almost any leftover ingredients in your fridge.
- Wheat tortillas (white or whole)
- Red pesto or green regular pesto, hummus, guacamole spread…
- Spinach or arugula, any other green…
- Parma ham or turkey, smoked ham, chorizo…
- Edam cheese with parmesan or Manchego, Cheddar, Emental…
- Salt & pepper and/or other spices
- Fresh herbs: cilantro, basil, parsley…
- Preheat oven to 200º, set to grill mode.
- Take one tortilla and spread 2/3 spoons of red pesto until you cover the whole tortilla.
- Add the greens, meat and cheese. Add some black pepper or other spices/herbs if you want.
- Close the tortilla and cook on a pan or in the oven. Cook on one side for 5 minutes, flip and cook on the other for 2-3 minutes more.