Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Black Eyed Pea Quesadillas

I posted the other day about needing to find uses for some neglected pantry staples, and when I shared on Facebook, too, I picked the brains of a couple of vegetarians I know.  One of them recommended black eyed pea tacos.  Any excuse to eat anything resembling Mexican food is fine by me.

Tonight, my husband had a work dinner, so it was just me and the two little girls- Baby Squirrel, age 6 1/2, and Baby Turtle, 22 months.  He's not often away during dinner, but when he is, I generally go meatless.  It's just easy, and a good way to cram more vegetables into my hotdog fiends for children.

One of their favorites is quesadillas.  I generally use pinto or Ranch Style beans, a southwestern favorite of mine.  You can find a good blog post on making your own Ranch Style beans here.

My pantry inventory had some black eyed peas that needed a culinary home, so I took the taco idea and ran with it, but opted for the quesadilla route instead, per my 6 year old's request.

Quesadillas are super easy to make, but the simplicity can be deceiving.  As with a grilled cheese sandwich, you can't rush the goodness.  Don't get in a hurry and turn up the heat, or you'll wind up with runny cheese and a blackened tortilla.  That's just no fun for anybody.  Take your time, and you'll be rewarded.

All you need are:

1 (15 oz.) can black eyed peas, drained (I prepare dried beans, so I used a 2-cup container from my freezer, defrosted and drained)
Chili powder, cumin, garlic granules
About 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mixture of Kraft mild cheddar and Monterey Jack)
Coconut oil, vegetable oil, or nonstick spray
Flour tortillas
Sliced pickled jalapeños (optional)
Electric griddle or large skillet
Sour cream (optional)

Sprinkle a little granulated garlic (not garlic salt!), chili powder, and cumin on your drained black eyed peas and mash them a little with a fork.

I stopped buying aerosol nonstick spray a couple of years ago.  I use a silicone pastry brush to apply a thin layer of oil as needed.  I like Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand of coconut oil.  I use refined for cooking, and virgin for things like chapped skin.

Coconut oil is sometimes solid and sometimes liquid, depending on the temperature of your home.  My kitchen stays a bit warm in the summer, so my jar is liquid right now.  I just dip the silicone brush in the jar and schmear it onto my electric griddle.  Give it a good lube.

You can also use regular vegetable oil or aerosol nonstick spray, if that's what you have.

You can't have too much cheese.  Fine shreds will melt more readily.  I like a Colby-Jack or cheddar-Jack blend.  Pepper Jack would be good, too, if you're going spicy.

And for the love of cheese, don't buy it pre-shredded!

Plenty of sliced jalapeños for Mama.  I like the Cajun Chef brand, which I found in the Ethnic section of my store.  They're inexpensive, really good, and sliced more thinly than other brands. 

Slap your tortillas onto a preheated griddle or skillet.  My griddle has a temperature dial, which I set to 250º (about medium heat).  Give them a good sprinkling of cheese and spread out the black eyed peas.  Leave a little room at the edges for melting.  Add sliced jalapeños, if desired.

Top with a second tortilla if making a whole one, or fold over a single tortilla if feeding a kiddo.  Grill slowly until heated through and melted.  The tortillas should be spotty golden brown and slightly crispy.

Allow them to rest on a cutting board for a few minutes before slicing up with a pizza cutter.  Serve wedges with sour cream for dipping.

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