Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Easy Party: A Quesadilla Buffet!
A Quesadilla Bar is a Great Way to Entertain!
Holy guacamole, did we have a good time or what? Recently, a few friends wanted to get together, but none of us had the time to do much in the way of cooking. I had just read in trade magazines about the popularity of quesadillas in fast-casual restaurants, and thought "What about a quesadilla buffet?"
So here's what we did: I picked up some nifty crunchy snacks at one of the Hispanic markets. Our host made a pitcher of margaritas.
Then we gathered together some interesting sounding bottled salsas: raspberry, apple, and a couple of tomato-based ones. We had red pepper jelly, Major Grey chutney, roasted red bell peppers and an interesting new pepper called Peppadew (available in jars from specialty markets). We had canned, rinsed and drained black beans, avocado, black olives, minced cilantro, sliced jalapeno peppers and marinated artichokes.
Of course you've got to have something to hold it all together, so we had several cheeses: grated Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, Brie, mascarpone and a soft goat cheese.
We did do a little cooking: we sauteed thinly sliced onion in olive oil until very soft, then added a splash of balsamic vinegar and let it all cook down and caramelize. We did shrimp in a margarita sauce. We sauteed some sliced mushrooms (did you know you can buy them already cleaned and sliced in the grocery?). We grilled a couple of chicken breasts and sliced them very thinly. We also grilled some Mexican chorizo sausage from the Hispanic market. We made a pineapple-mango salsa and an interesting "drizzle" with chipotle peppers, honey and cilantro that I thought was really yummy.
Then we put out flour tortillas. We used the big ones, in white, spinach and sundried tomato flavors. Each person loaded his tortilla with whatever his fancy dictated, putting the ingredients on one half, then folding the other half over to toast on griddles. We had two cast iron griddles, one ridged and the other flat. I thought the best results came from starting them on the ridged one for the attractive grill marks, then flipping them over onto the flat one to finish. Since everything is already cooked, it only requires the time to heat it all together and melt the cheese all through it.
I would love to be able to tell you what combination was the best, but we all had such a great time that I forgot to write down some of the more interesting ones. And then there was the fellow who had absolutely everything in his! But the consensus was that we should have used the smaller tortillas so folks could experiment with more than one. The big ones made a pretty filling meal!
So head it to the market and wander through the salsa section, pick up a couple of cheeses, and check your pantry and fridge for unusual additions. Invite your friends and let them fix their own quesadilla dinner. Oh, and don't forget the margaritas!
1 small onion, slivered
3 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup bottled margarita mix
1/4 cup tequila
In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil until very hot but not smoking. Add the onions and stir constantly for about a minute. Reduce the heat a bit, add the shrimp and cook, tossing occasionally for a couple of minutes. Add the margarita mix and continue to cook until just barely pink through. Add the tequila, and hold a long handled match above the surface to flambee. Shake until the flames go out. (You can skip this step if you like). Remove from the heat and place in a serving bowl. Makes enough for 8 quesadillas.
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
2 tbsp honey
About 1/2 cup water
Put the cilantro, peppers and honey in a blender or food processor and puree. Add water gradually to make a thickish drizzle. Place in a serving bowl. This is pretty zingy, but the honey mellows it out nicely. Makes about ? cup. I would like this brushed on pork, chicken or fish on the grill, too.
1 already peeled pineapple (available in the produce section), diced
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1/2 small red onion, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
Zest and juice of 1 large lime
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss. If you like a very hot salsa, use the flesh and seeds of the jalapeno. For a milder one, discard the seeds and interior veins, and use only half the flesh.