Quesadillas any way you want them

Cleaning out the fridge used to mean a soup day. Recently, it has become a quesadilla day. As long as the two basic elements of quesadillas are present — tortillas and cheese — you have free reign to add any leftovers taking up fridge space. What to do with the little piece of roast chicken that is hardly enough to make a sandwich? Or the piece of fresh panela cheese that needs to be used up because fresh cheese just does’t stay fresh for long?

Our fridge was harboring small dishes of leftover chicken and rice with mushrooms; quinoa with spinach; Russ’es deconstructed golumpki casserole of cabbage, mushrooms, bulgar, and ground beef held together with tomato sauce; and a small dish of pinto beans. Sure, I could stick little dishes and packages in the freezer, but they tend to languish there for too long.

We had the foresight to stock up on whole wheat tortillas last month when we did the biggest ($$$) grocery shopping of our marital history. The headlines were already on the horizon. We knew it was time to fill the pantry and freezer, and lie low. And by good fortune, we had a surprising variety of cheese on hand. Tillamook sharp cheddar, goat cheese, fresh panela, Oaxaca string cheese, gruyere and gorgonzola, the latter two gifts from a friend when she cleaned out her Mascota kitchen to return to Chicago. Never in our marital history have we had such a cheese abundance.

I got all the leftovers lined up, took stock of which cheese would pair best with which leftover, and started heating the griddle.

Quinoa with spinach was paired with Oaxaca string cheese, the chicken, mushrooms and rice with cheddar; gruyere topped the golumpki casserole leftovers; and panela was matched with the roast chicken bits and sauteed mushrooms.

Fifteen minutes later, we were eating quesadillas topped with a little bit of leftover salsa for lunch. With a side of salad or soup, ideally leftover soup, this would be substantial enough for dinner. If you make too many, they keep well in the fridge for several days, but then leftovers become a concern again.

Apple quesadillas, one with goat cheese, the other with gorgonzola, made a wonderful dessert. Almost any fresh fruit can be used. Mango with brie is exceptional. Someday I would like to try a ripe pear with camembert.

Other fillings I’m thinking about are bacon, avocado and tomato, a riff on BLT. Cook the bacon first, of course. And potato with cheddar. Russ would want me to add saurerkraut to that one. The possibilities are endless.

After Easter, we had leftover lamb and roasted vegetables. Why not? They made excellent quesadillas with manchego cheese.

Russ likes to say, “I bet no one else is eating this”. Nope, most likely no one else was eating golumpki casserole and gruyere quesadillas. At least not today.


  • Whole wheat, white, or corn tortillas; 2 tortillas per quesadilla
  • Cheese, thinly sliced or grated, about 1/2 cup per quesadilla
  • Tasty leftovers from the fridge
  • Salsa, optional
  • 1 apple, thinly sliced, to make 2 dessert quesadillas

Spread as many tortillas as will fit on your griddle, or in a large skillet, in one layer. Top with cheese, leftovers, then cheese again. (The two layers of melted cheese serve as the “glue” holding everything together.) Top with a second tortilla for each quesadilla. Cook over medium heat until the underside has browned. Cook about 5 more minutes until the cheese is melty and the new underside has brown speckles. Remove from griddle and cut into quarters. Serve with salsa if you wish.

Notes ~

Whole wheat tortillas are much more flavorful than white tortillas, and fortunately Pepe’s, our local grocery store in Mascota, stocks them. They freeze well, and thaw quickly.

Quesadillas, literally “little cheesey things”, originated in central and northern Mexico, and were traditionally made with corn tortillas. Flour tortillas are more commonly used in northern Mexico. If you think my fillings are outlandish, there is even a pizzadilla, made with pizza toppings.


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