By Erin Walgamuth
I was out running errands a few days ago and went into the market for some supplies. My daughter had to be at work in a few hours and I knew she would want to eat something before she left the house. Hmmm, what to make? They had some ripe papayas in the produce section and I decided to make quesadillas for her, and use the left-overs for dinner….good plan!
Some of you may be thinking, “I’ve never heard papaya and quesadilla used in the same sentence before.” Well, hold on, it’s a delicious combo. Sabor Latino has a cheese bar right next to their produce section, how convenient as I needed cheese too! I chose Queso Fresco cheese as we use it in all of our Mexican food dishes as well as salads.
Queso Fresco is a traditional Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk. I find it to be very versatile as it is soft enough to scoop, slices nicely and crumbles easily. This white cheese is a quintessential part of Mexican cuisine and something you will almost always find in my refrigerator.
Now, back to the papaya part of the recipe. I find that papayas, as well as mangos, are a delicious addition to quesadillas. Feel free to experiment with the cheese too; Brie cheese is a delicious substitute for the Queso Fresco….yes, really!
I have a wonderful cast iron griddle that was used on camping trips when my husband was growing up. I cook the quesadillas on it as it heats evenly and browns the tortillas so nicely. I also have a 6” wide spatula that is perfect for turning the quesadillas over without flinging ingredients over the stove top….I hate it when that happens!
If you have a flat grilling cage for your BBQ (one that you might use for sliced vegetables) you can put them on the grill instead of the stove top. Just make sure it’s a fairly snug fit and start grilling on the side you put the cheese on first.
Salsa, guacamole, Mexican crème or sour cream are nice additions to the quesadillas. I have cut them into wedges and served them as appetizers with margaritas, yum!
As with most of my recipes, this one is open to interpretation as well. I have mentioned before that my daughter is a total wimp when it comes to anything spicy, so I only put two tablespoons of jalapeño in the mix, but hey, add more if you like it spicier! If there is any papaya mix left over, use it to accompany grilled chicken or fish.
Note: The ripe papaya will be juicy, so eat the quesadilla over a plate so you don’t have hot juice run down your hands! Use latex gloves to handle the jalapeno if you have them. If you don’t have gloves, scoop out seeds with a small spoon, wash your hands and avoid rubbing your eyes or your face.
You will need
10” or larger griddle or non-stick pan
Medium size mixing bowl
Cooking oil spray
1 pound papaya
2-3 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno pepper, about 1 medium pepper
3-4 tablespoons finely minced red onion
3-4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
12-8” flour tortillas
12 oz. Queso Fresco cheese
Peel the papaya. Cut in half length-wise and scoop out seeds. Cut the papaya into medium dice. Put the papaya in the bowl. Add finely minced jalapeno, red onion and cilantro. Taste and add salt if you like.
Lightly spray the griddle or pan with the vegetable spray. Heat griddle on medium to medium-low heat. Put one tortilla on the griddle and crumble 3 tablespoons of cheese evenly over the tortilla. Evenly distribute three tablespoons of the papaya mixture over the cheese. Put another tortilla over the top of the cheese and papaya mixture. Use your hand or the spatula to put gentle pressure over the top of the tortilla as it cooks. Cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the bottom tortilla is golden brown. Carefully turn the quesadilla over and brown on the other side. The quesadilla is done when the tortilla is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Remove cooked quesadilla to a cooling rack and let rest for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges.
Note: If you want to serve all 6 quesadillas at the same time you can put the quesadillas on baking sheets and keep them warm in the oven until ready to cut and serve.
Erin Walgamuth has been an assistant Food Stylist for television and print for the past 26 years and writes this column using her own recipes. Check out her other creations in our Hometown Recipe section.
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