Yes, I know. This post begs for a photo. I feel terrible not posting one. But I fell down on duty last weekend, abandoned ship, did not build light box. And it was dark last night. So, even though this dish turned out beautifully, the image I captured made it look like something (as my father would say when I was growing up) that I wouldn’t even feed the dog. In reality, I’d feed these quesadillas to anyone. They’re gorgeous AND delicious. Which means this is a perfect example of when no photo is better than a bad photo.Because a bad photo might make you decide against trying this recipe. Which you should.
I can also justify no photos here because I know I will make some version of this again soon, by which time I will have a light box. Because in addition to the fact that quesadillas make a super quick lunch or supper, they’re also a great vehicle for reinventing leftover ingredients into something completely new. I did have to cook the cauliflower last night, but the beans and squash were leftover from Saturday. Which made this come together super fast.
I’m a little obsessed with this cauliflower preparation, which I learned about in one of Alice Waters’ cookbooks. Seriously. I make it almost every week, so that I always have some in the fridge. It’s super easy and delicious, essential qualities, but I think the real reason I love it so much is its versatility as an ingredient for other dishes. I’ve made up so many crazy delicious things because of this cauliflower always being there. And I bet you will too. Here’s what you do.
Heat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Then trim out the core of the cauliflower, wash, and slice it horizontally into pieces that are about 1/2″ thick. Although the edges will fall apart, the centers will look like cauliflower “steaks.”
Pour 1-2 T. of olive oil into the skillet. Add a single layer of cauliflower, arranging the steaks in the center, where the heat is probably concentrated, and placing the smaller pieces around the edge. Leave enough space to prevent steaming the vegetables and sprinkle generously (although maybe not quite as liberally as I always do) with salt. If you have a spatter guard, you’ll probably want to use it now.
After about 4-6 minutes, when you start to smell the cauliflower carmelizing, use tongs or a spatula to turn the pieces. Cook for another 3-6 minutes, until the other side is browned. I usually have to rearrange a bit to account for hot spots. And sometimes the process takes more or less time. Use your eyes and your nose. The point is that you want the cauliflower to be well browned but not burnt.
I love to serve (and eat!) this cauliflower as part of a composed plate, usually with kale and maybe a lentil salad. But it’s also a wonderful ingredient in frittata. And, obviously, quesadillas.
4 flour tortillas
1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
2 T. cooked beans
2 T. diced, roasted butternut squash
2 T. diced, sauteed cauliflower
Heat a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add a tortilla. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the top and then evenly distribute half of the beans, squash, and cauliflower. Cover with another tortilla. Cook for 1-2 minutes, spinning once or twice. Turn carefully with a spatula and cook for another 1-2 minutes on the other side. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
If you like, you can serve this with guacamole, salsa, and Greek yogurt or sour cream. Mango salsa might also be nice. But I thought this particular variation, with the sweetness of the squash and cauliflower against the spicy cheese and earthy beans, was very good plain. Again, I apologize for not having a photo. Fingers crossed that I’ll get it together to build a light box next weekend.