Quesadillas are one of the most versatile of all light meals or appetizers. Restaurants in Old Mexico serve a much simpler version of quesadillas. There, a quesadilla generally is a freshly baked corn tortilla oozing with quick-melting cheese and served with a side dish of freshly made salsa. Sometimes they are fried, though not often. Quesadillas are one of the most fun foods to garnish and present in creative and pretty ways. Innovation is the key to a great quesadilla; just use your favorite or on-hand ingredients, and let your imagination roll.

Yield: 1 quesadilla

1 teaspooon unsalted butter, melted
1 wheat-flour tortilla (10- to 12-inch size)
2 to 4 tablespoons grated Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese combination or any substitution, such as goat cheese, asadero, or other quick-melting cheese
6 to 8 slices pickled jalapeños
Other fillings as desired: sautéed chorizo, sliced grilled chicken, baby shrimp, cooked pinto or black beans, chilled meats, any sliced seared vegetables, chopped onion, and tomato

Preheat a comal (Mexican flat griddle), tapa, or griddle to medium heat. Brush some of the butter lightly in the shape of half a tortilla on one side of the comal.

Place the tortilla on the butter. Place the cheese on the buttered half of the tortilla, allowing a ½-inch margin around the edge of the tortilla. Scatter the jalapeño slices and any other fillings over the cheese.

When the cheese starts to melt, fold the other half of the tortilla over the fillings and lightly press until the edges hold together. Brush the top with more of the butter. Flip the quesadilla by gently placing a pancake turner under the curved edges of the quesadilla and rolling it over. Cook until browned. Remove from the heat, slice into 4 or more sections, and garnish as desired.

Reprinted from Jane Butel’s Real Women Eat Chiles.

An internationally recognized authority on the regional cooking of the American Southwest, Jane Butel has published 18 cookbooks, including several bestsellers. She operates a full-participation weekend and week-long vacation cooking school; an online school; a mail-order spice, cookbook, and Southwestern product business; and conducts culinary tours and team-building classes. Through her writing, teaching, and television projects, Butel seasons the country’s melting pot with the Southwest’s rich culinary, cultural, and historical heritage. Learn more at janebutel.com.