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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A creature of habit
Perhaps Katie knows it better (and suffers from it more) than anyone, but I have an almost limitless capacity to eat the same dish at the same restaurant, week after week. When we feel like going out for dinner, we frequently have the following conversation:

Shan: How about the Ale House?
Katie: We just went there last week. And really, there are only so many things on the menu that I like to eat. I just can't have turkey and swiss on a baguette every week.
Shan: But why not?

The truth is that the only thing that varies in my trips to the Ale House is what kind of soup accompanies my barbeque burger, well done please, no lettuce necessary because I'll just shove it to the side, with bleu cheese crumbles and a side of tartar sauce. And the even sadder truth is that I could, wallet allowing, happily eat this once a week. At least.

You can get almost anything you want to eat in Seattle. But as much as I love her pantheon of restaurants, once I fall for a venue or a dish, I tend to fall hard, and I am very loyal -- sometimes to the chagrin of my dining companions. I order the same tomato, avocado, and ridiculous amounts of feta omelet at Leena's; the same potato chana masala at Cedars; the same Park Chop Salad at Volunteer Park Café. I'd be willing to bet that as soon as Delancey opens up, it'll be one pizza and one only for me.

Predictably, my food fixations have followed me into my own kitchen. Sometimes I'll get stuck on a recipe and make it for weeks. This year, I ate cheese grits all winter and corn salad all spring, and I made macaroni and cheese every time Joe came to visit. But my standby for years -- ever since I moved to Seattle -- has been an overstuffed quesadilla.

I do vary the ingredients from time to time, but I always follow the same formula, and my quesadillas never fail to come out of the pan too hot to hold, with fetching bits of burned cheese creeping out of the sides. The constancy is comforting. I like knowing that I'll burn my tongue on the first bite, and that the crispy edges of the tortilla will crunch under my teeth, and that I definitely added too much Sriracha, but the giant dollop of sour cream on the side will cool things off in short order.

Lately I've been making these for two, and despite the lack of surprise in our dinner menus, Joe has complimented me on every single one. Further evidence that he is a keeper! And it's a good thing, because let's face it, I don't see the quesadillas leaving the rotation anytime soon.

Dinner quesadilla

This is barely a recipe, but here's the formula. My quesadillas always include beans, but they don't have to be the refried ones from the can. They could be whole black or pinto beans. Or, the adventurous among us (you know who you are) can refry their own. Similarly, the cheese varies based on what's chillin in the fridge, and I usually add a gob of an interesting sauce or condiment (lately I've been experimenting with jalapeno hummus in addition to Sriracha). One more suggestion: if you have any leftover mashed potatoes lying around, add some just after the bean layer. It's fantastic.

Two tortillas (I usually use white flour, but whole wheat are good too)
About 1/4 can of refried beans, or 1/3 can of whole beans
As much cheese as you want (pepper Jack, regular Jack, and cheddar are good -- I bet cottage cheese would be interesting, too)
Dried minced onion, to taste
Sriracha or other hot sauce, to taste
Hummus, salsa, or any other sauce or dip that sounds good to you
Sour cream

Place one tortilla in a frying pan. Spread beans over entire tortilla. If using hummus or sauce, add it now. Top with cheese, minced onion, and a few shakes of hot sauce, in that order. (If I'm using only beans and cheese, I'll sometimes add a dash of thyme in place of the minced onion, which gives the whole operation quite a different flavor. This would be extra good with the abovementioned mashed potato variation.) Complete the quesadilla with the remaining tortilla and cook over medium heat, flipping occasionally, until the cheese sizzles and the tortilla turns an appealing shade of brown.

Cut in half for convenient eating and serve with lots of sour cream.

posted by shan at 10:42 PM;


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