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September 15, 2009

Tortillas (Recipe: shrimp and avocado quesadillas)

Shrimp-avocado-quesadillas

Down the hill from the house where Ted's aunt and uncle live, in Ajijic on the shore of Lake Chapala, a small tortilleria opens in mid-morning, six days a week.

When you hear the slap-slap-slap of the masa dough between the palms of the women's hands, and when the aroma of corn toasting on the comal (griddle) works its way up the road, you know the shop has opened.

A dozen tortillas costs very little, just a dollar or two, and a meal would be unthinkable without them. Tortillas -- the round, thin, flatbread made from corn or flour -- are the sandwich bread of Mexico. They're the sandwich bread of The Perfect Pantry, too.

There are three ways to make tortillas.

This way:

This way:

Or this way:

Tortillas

Without tortillas there would be no lime-chicken tacos, no yam and black bean enchiladas, no tortilla soup, no flautas de papa, no lime and salt tortilla chips, and no tortilla pizza.

I admit I'm too lazy to make tortillas at home, thought I've tried to justify buying a tortilla press (I haven't bought one, yet). My local supermarket sells at least ten types of tortillas, in sizes from six to ten inches: corn or flour, carb or low-carb, gluten-free, whole wheat, sun-dried tomato, spinach. The ones I use most often are Joseph's brand oat bran and flax tortillas, just 70 calories and 5 net carbs each. (I keep them in the vegetable drawer in my refrigerator, for up to a month in a sealed bag.)

When I want yellow or blue corn tortillas, I go to Sanchez Tortilleria in Providence, or a good Latino market.

Or the little tortilleria in Ajijic, when I'm lucky enough to get there.

Shrimp-quesadillas

Shrimp and avocado quesadillas

If tortillas are the sandwich bread of Mexico, quesadillas are the grilled cheese sandwiches. With tortillas in the refrigerator and leftover grated cheese in the freezer, you can make these in minutes. Serve as a lunch dish, with spicy salsa, or cut into small wedges for an appetizer. Figure on two tortillas per person. This recipe serves 2; can be doubled or more.

Ingredients

8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 tortillas (I use Joseph's 10-inch oat bran and flax tortillas)
1 avocado, diced, tossed with juice of half a lime
1-2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tsp minced jalapeño (remove seeds and ribs before mincing), optional
1-1/2 cups grated cheese of your choice (Monterey Jack is good), or crumbled queso blanco
Salsa, for serving (I like Trader Jose's habañero-lime, which is very spicy, or Paul Newman's mildly spicy peach salsa)

Directions

In a small saucepan, bring one or two inches of water to a boil. Drop in the peeled and deveined shrimp, turn the heat to simmer, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp have just turned pink and curled. Drain the shrimp and rinse them under cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, slice in half horizontally, to make two thin slices out of each one.

Heat a nonstick griddle to low-medium. (If you use a nonstick pan or griddle, you will not need any oil on the tortillas.)

While the griddle is heating, build your quesadillas. Lay one tortilla flat on the countertop. Sprinkle it with one-fourth of the grated cheese. Spread half of the shrimp pieces around here and there. Dot with pieces of avocado and tomato. Sprinkle with a bit of minced jalapeño. Then top with another one-fourth of the cheese, and a second tortilla.

Gently press down on the quesadilla to compress the avocado a bit. With a large spatula, move the quesadilla to the heated pan. Cook for 3 minutes, until the bottom tortilla is lightly browned and the cheese on the bottom is melting. Carefully (and fearlessly) flip the quesadilla, and cook 2-3 minutes, until the bottom tortilla is lightly browned. Lift the edge to check for brownness, and check that the cheese inside has melted.

Slide the quesadilla onto a cutting board, and let it sit for at least 3 minutes. With a large, very sharp knife, cut the quesadilla into wedges, and serve with your favorite salsa.

Note: if you're making your quesadillas on a grill, form them slightly differently. Use one tortilla per quesadilla instead of two. Set one on your countertop, arrange the fillings on one-half of the tortilla, and fold the top half over. Tortillas made this way are easier to flip on the grill.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Banana or strawberry quesadillas
Roasted halibut tacos
Mexican tortilla and lime soup
Moo shu chicken
Tex-Mex turkey lasagne

Comments

If tortillas are the sandwich bread of Mexico, quesadillas are the grilled cheese sandwiches.

I love this - I so agree. Quesadillas are a meal savior in many ways than one. Lydia I just love this recipe. Can't wait to make this!

Yummy!
I pray we get a good Latino market here one day, Latin ingredients are hard to find here.

Oh boy...its hardly 8 a.m. and already I'm starving! Thanks!!!!!! :)

This is definitely tonight's recipe. I'll let you know how it turns out

The avocado peaking out here has caught my interest. In my home town there is a little Mexican restaurant or "whole in the wall" that makes everythiung fiom scratch with a limited but authentic menu...too bad it is over 3000 km away.

I love quesadillas, but for some reason I don't remember to make them nearly often enough. Maybe keeping the tortillas in the vegetable crisper would help!

sanchez is right by my house but I haven't made my way in there yet!

2 of my favorite things wrapped up in a tortilla? Fantastic! I love making quesadillas using whatever I happen to have in the fridge.

Another entertaining post and tasty dish.

Those quesadillas look amazing! Thanks for the link.

I love quesadillas and ate lots of them while we lived in Guadalajara. We went to Ajijic a frequently to enjoy the museum and the restaurants but never saw the tortilleria - I'll have to pick up tortillas next shopping excursion - fortunately there are any number of shops that sell them here in Raleigh -

The fragrance of fresh corn tortillas makes my mouth water. A definite gluten-free staple in this humble kitchen. We always keep tortillas on hand- sprouted corn, white corn and brown rice are our faves. Love the shrimp and avocado combo. Must make that soon!

Meeta, quesadillas have replaced scrambled eggs as the go-to quickie meal in our house.

Natashya, you might have to get one of those tortilla presses I've had my eye on, to make your own. I'll be very jealous.

Milton, bon appetit!

Bellini Valli, there's a great variety of tortillas in our local markets now, and while they are not homemade, they are really very good. Those little hole-in-the-wall places are very special, aren't they?

Kalyn, I keep both the tortillas and a supply of grated cheese in the vegetable crisper. Go figure!

Amy, you must go. Really.

Patsy, same here. Most of my quesadillas are made with something leftover in the fridge.

Joan, Katerina: Thank you.

Louise, lucky you -- I love Guadalajara and can absolutely imagine living there.

Karina, the infinite variety of tortillas is wonderful. I've not tried the brown rice ones, and now will look for those in the market.

What great timing -- I had all the ingredients on hand, and made the recipe for dinner just now. It was delicious, except that unfortunately it was an inferior avocado. I used a mixture of pepper jack and comte (swiss) cheese. The shrimp were frozen Gulf shrimp, not farm-raised in SE Asia, which is also good.

THANKS!

these are delicious. i made 2. the first one, the cheese was melted but the t's were not nicely browned so i tried again. the second was much better, but both times my ingredient placement was off....too many beers maybe to see properly. Also, I had a can of rotel left over from another PP experiment and I used that instead of the j.peppers and tomato.

Thanks again for the great and very easy recipe. i can see myself putting on weight while I perfect these HAHAA

What a delicious sounding quesadilla. And I'm so intrigued by the flax and oat bran tortillas. I've not seen those before.

You can find blue tortillas where you live? You are so lucky! I miss those hand made tortillas made on the comal. Those quesadillas sound so good!

I can't take much more! The mouth-watering photos, the delicious recipes! I may have to leave work now and go directly to the store!!

how was your trip?

Such a delicious idea. I keep running across all these new ways to make tacos and quesadillas and liking what I see. Thanks for this. Now I must run to the market and get myself some ingredients!

- Bill

Very few things beat a fresh hand made tortilla. Slap, slap, slap...

Mae, please try again with another avocado. You'll love the combination of flavors.

Milton, I love the idea of Ro*Tel in these quesadillas. Great substitution.

Christine, these are my new go-to tortillas. They're thinner than traditional flour or corn tortillas, but with only 5 net carbs, they are well within my dietary limit, and the taste is lovely, too.

Ben, the local Latino market sells blue corn tortillas in packs of 50 or 100! Mostly I can find the 6-inch size, but occasionally I see larger ones.

Carol, these quesadillas are pretty tempting, aren't they? Brazil was great; stay tuned for several upcoming posts about our food finds.

Bill, once you get into the quesadilla groove, you'll find infinite variations to try. Yes, get to the market!

EB, you do know that sound. It's hypnotic.

I love the combination of shrimp and avocado. It's one of my favorites, so this is definitely going on my list!

Beautiful with the oozing cheese!

My grand daughters and I made flour totillas when they were visiting last time. I haven't made them in years. Now I can't eat the purchased ones. I put just a tad of bacon drippings in the dough with the shortening. That was in the recipe I had from years ago from an experienced tortilla maker. The flavor outweighs the guilt! They were just almost too good.
We grilled chicken tenders and onions and bell peppers on a very hot cast iron griddle on the gas grill and made fajitas.

I like your method of making tortillas too! I haven't made quesadillas in awhile but I've been seeing them all over the blogs and might have to check it out soon!

Pam, it's one of my favorite combinations, too. I think you'll really like these.

Noble Pig, everything's better with cheese!

Barb, sounds like a perfect activity to do with your granddaughters. I think my older (8-year-old) grandkids will love this, too.

Maris, quesadillas are perfect for worknight dinners.

Those shrimp and avocado quesadillas look so good!

They look like the best. I love shrimps a lot.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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