Smoky Black Bean Quesadillas
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

Make weeknight dinner easy with these smoky black bean quesadillas

It is neither difficult nor time-consuming to make a quesadilla.

One can, if one chooses, put together a perfectly serviceable meal with a microwave shredded cheese, and a couple of stray tortillas. Salsa will cover up any stale flavors and add interest where there is little. I, for one, have made and eaten plenty of these quesadillas when both hungry and strapped for time.

It is, however, not that much more difficult nor time-consuming to make a stellar quesadilla. It all comes down, as it often does, to technique.

The most consistently delicious quesadillas are made with flour tortillas, folded in half to mitigate too much cheese leakage, and fried, somewhat slowly, in more oil than you may think necessary. This technique is similar to that of a good grilled cheese sandwich, and was introduced to me by Kenji Lopez-Alt, on the website Serious Eats. Another trick? Mix the cheese, which should be of a good melting variety and grated by hand, with any additional fillings before adding it to the tortillas. This step will help to hold the filling in place with cheese-glue, if you will.

Your choice of filling can, of course, be anything or nothing — a plain cheese quesadilla is a fine thing — but in the recipe below, you’ll find a mildy spicy and smoky vegetarian blend of Monterey Jack cheese, black beans and minced chipotle chile. If you’re cooking for kids, you can omit the chipotle and add some smoked paprika or ground cumin in its place. Don’t want to use an entire can of black beans? Chop up leftover vegetables and use them in place of some of the legumes.

On the side, you’ll need only a dipping sauce or two of your choice. Salsa and sour cream are natural fits, as is a good guacamole. Just don’t think too hard about it. You’re only making quesadillas, after all.

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