Monday, May 31, 2010

Quick Chicken Quesadillas


Here's another of those terrific meals you should have in your arsenal for when you're pressed for time and dinner has to be on the table in a heartbeat. If you have cooked chicken breast already in the fridge or freezer, this will come together lightning-fast. If you have a picky eater, just leave out whatever toppings he or she doesn't care for ~ these are easy to customize.

Please, save yourself some money (and eat much better) by roasting a few chickens on a slow night instead of buying frozen precooked chicken breast. Just take the roasted chicken breast off the bone, let it cool completely, cube it, and pack it into freezer-ready resealable storage bags in one- or two-cup portion sizes.Thaw in the fridge overnight or in the microwave, and you're all set.

Serve this with a green salad or veggies and dip for a balanced meal.

Three-Cheese Chicken Quesadillas
Serves 4
• 4 ounces cream cheese (low-fat or Neufchatel cheese work great)
• 8 soft-taco-size flour tortillas
• ½ cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
• 2 cups cubed cooked chicken meat
• ¼ cup sliced green onions
• ¼ cup sliced black olives
• 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
• Sour cream and salsa to serve, optional

1. Spread one-fourth of the cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese on each of four tortillas. Top with 2 tablespoons shredded Pepper Jack, ½ cup cubed chicken, 1 tablespoon green onions, 1 tablespoon black olives, and ¼ cup shredded Cheddar. Finish by topping with the remaining four tortillas.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat ~ there is no need to grease the pan. Carefully transfer one of the tortilla stacks to the skillet. Heat until the cheese begins to melt and the bottom begins to brown in spots. Using a large flat spatula, turn the quesadilla over and heat on the other side, approximately 3 to 5 total. Remove to baking sheet and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven while you cook the remaining three quesadillas.

3. Cut each quesadilla into 6 wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From the Cookshelf: Amor y Tacos

I'm going to be honest with you: I'm pretty much infatuated with Mexican food. From the real-deal street foods I've eaten in-country to the pseudo-comida I occasionally indulge in when I'm Fourthmealing with my teens. So, you have to know that when I received this cookbook for review, I was predisposed to love it, and you know what? I do.

Amor y Tacos: Modern Mexican Tacos, Margaritas, and Antojitos is a small book stuffed as full as a dorado taco with recipes for tacos, antojitos (think appetizers or tapas), and cocktails, each one sounding more urgently delicious than the last. Liberally seasonning the text are dichos, folksy Mexican proverbs along the lines of, "Si quires el perro, acepta las pulgas" ("If you wanted the dog, don't complain about the fleas").

Author Deborah Schneider, a working chef and award-winning author, envisioned this collection of recipes as a "party book," and I'm definitely on board. Tacos are perfectly suited to serve buffet-style. Scalable for a crowd, ideal for "make your own," they're the ultimate fiesta food. Offer guests some of the delectable, even unusual antojitos (everyone else can serve chips and dip, people ~ you'll be bringing out the Scallops Aguachiles in Volcano Sauce!) you'll find here and a selection of the outrageous cocktails, and your party can't help but succeed. Schneider even makes planning easy by providing suggested menus suitable for parties from 4 to 20 guests or more.

If you're a fan of Mexican food but taco night at home typically means ground beef sauteed with an envelope of seasonings and spooned into brittle shells that taste a lot like the box they came in, do yourself a favor and run pick up a copy of this book as soon as you possibly can. Trust me, you'll want it on hand for the entire summer season of entertaining. Consider the following:

  • Toritos ~ Little Peppers Stuffed with Garlic, Shrimp, and Oaxaca Cheese (p. 62)
  • Lobster, Chayote, and Mango Tostadas with Chipotle Crema (p. 69)
  • Garlic Shrimp Taco with Poblano Chile Rajas (p. 92)
  • Grilled Lamb Taco with Salsa Borracha and Salsa Verde (p. 93)
  • Deep-Fried Fish Taco Capeado with Spicy Coleslaw (p. 102)
  • Carne Asada Taco Vampiro (p. 107)

You'll want to make up a big pitcher of Watermelon Agua Fresca (p. 39) or sip on a Blackberry Mint Margarita (p. 41) to wash all that down.

Cinco de Mayo is the perfect day to test-drive the recipes in this spicy little volume. Invite your amigos over and get cooking. And you might just want to give a few copies of Amor y Tacos out as party favors ~ just in case your friends want to return the favor and host the next fiesta!

Amor y Tacos: Modern Mexican Tacos, Margaritas, and Antojitos by Deborah Schneider
Stewart, Tabori & Chang; May 2010

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