Until we tasted something entirely new—something truly, madly kim-chic, we thought we’d seen it all: every imaginable ingredient tossed in a tortilla, folded over with lotsa cheese and called a quesadilla.
Tex-Mex fare gets huge kick from Korean kimchi. You may have eyed in the grocery store and wondered what to do with the stuff. Well, tuck this powerful pickle snugly in your cart and kiss ordinary quesadillas goodbye forever.
Kimchi is a pungent, lip-puckering mix of naturally fermented napa cabbage, garlic, chilis, ginger and spices. Touted as one of world’s healthiest foods, the fiery condiment fights cancer, is loaded with vitamins, as well as an army of good bacteria for seamless digestive health. Add a dab to noodles, rice, stews, wraps or sammies. Or pucker up for a straight-from-the jar tangy treat.
Kim-Chic Quesadillas with Tamari Roasted Tomatillo and Tomato Salsa
Serves 4 as entrée, 8 as appetizer
6 plum tomatoes, halved
4 fresh tomatillos, shucks removed and halved
Olive oil, for drizzling and sautéing
Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger paste
2 red chilies, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons tamari sauce
1 teaspoon agave syrup
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
Olive oil cooking spray
3 cups chopped napa cabbage
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 1/2 cups kimchi, drained
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar
3/4 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
For the salsa:
Preheat oven to 300˚F degrees. Line a baking dish with foil and place the tomatoes and tomatillos cut-side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slow roast for 2 hours; remove from oven and set aside.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, coating bottom with olive oil. Add onions, seasoning with salt and pepper; sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons ginger paste and the red chilies; sauté 2 minutes more. Stir in roasted tomatoes and tomatillos, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add tamari and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in agave.
Once cooled, transfer mixture to a blender and pulse on lowest setting until salsa is mixed, but still chunky. If you have an immersion blender, skip this step and puree salsa right in the pan. Stir in sesame oil and sesame seeds. (Can be made up to a week ahead. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.)
For the quesadillas:
Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and coat bottom with cooking spray. Add napa cabbage with a few tablespoons of water and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and kimchi. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Lay the tortillas on a flat surface. On one half, layer the cilantro, cheeses and kimchi mixture. Fold over other half. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Heat a clean, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cooking quesadillas about 2 minutes each side, until cheeses are melted and the tortillas are browned.
To serve, cut into and drizzle with reserved salsa. Garnish with extra sesame seeds if desired. (Leftover salsa can be used in myriad ways—dip for chips, atop grilled chicken, chops or fish. Vegetarians and vegans can pump up sautéed tofu or tempeh.)
Diva confession: Fresh, homemade salsa is always best. But if the thought of roasting, stirring and blending your own makes you crave a long nap, by all means give yourself a break. Don’t forgo a fun and fabulous recipe just because you’re lazy: cheat! Grab a jar of salsa from the pantry, heat it up with minced garlic and ginger paste, add some tamari, sesame oil and sesame seeds, and voila! You’re done in minutes, ready to move onto more important matters. Like choosing (and tasting) the perfect wine or beer to accompany.