Monday, September 26, 2011

Spinach Pesto Quesadilla

This almost feels like cheating, posting a spinach pesto quesadilla recipe as a separate entry, rather than as an addendum to last week's spinach walnut pesto post.  But it just didn't seem right to relegate this astonishingly simple, yet surprisingly filling and delicious treat to footnote status--especially since quesadillas actually occupy a special place in my proverbial recipe box.

Until college, I considered quesadillas to be drab and mediocre, merely conduits for sour cream intake.  That is, until I met my freshman year roommate, Rachel.  Very quickly, we'd struck a bargain--I'd be the cook, if she'd wash all the dishes.  On the rare occasion that she'd cook, it'd be (you guessed it) quesadillas.  They take less than 2 minutes to make, and it's hard to pass up an opportunity for melty cheese and copious amounts of sour cream and salsa.  Still, I was baffled, because as delicious as the crispy tortilla and gooey cheese combo is, I was convinced that quesadillas don't constitute a proper meal.  It's all cheese!

Years later, Rachel and I are still best friends and roommates (somehow we've ended up in the same grad school program, in labs right next door to each other--yes, it's ridiculous).  She still makes quesadillas all the time, and I still turn up my nose at the thought of bringing quesadillas into work for lunch--they get microwaved, ugh.  Sometime recently though, I've gone through another quesadilla revolution.  It all happened one fateful night that there was leftover steak. Preposterous, right?  Uneaten steak is a culinary rarity--unheard of, at least at my place.  But then the next day, with leftover steak in my quesadilla... it was a total eye-opener.  You can put anything into a quesadilla!!!  My favorite 'dilla-stuffer is still steak, sometimes with pesto, below.  It's so good, that when I have steak, it almost makes me want to save some for leftovers.

Spinach Pesto Quesadillas
Total Recipe Cost: $0.65 per quesadilla!
Inspired by Rachel's inexplicable ability to eat 'dillas every meal for days on end

This is so easy that it feels silly to have a recipe, but the genius about quesadillas (that took me a while to appreciate) is that you can add any veggies (spinach, peppers, etc.) or steak to make it more epic.  Another favorite variation is the pizza-dilla, with cheese and pepperoni (sans pesto, though).

1 large flour tortilla
1.5 tablespoon of spinach pesto
1/4 cup of shredded cheese (I used a cheddar/jack mix)
veggies or leftover steak (optional)

Place a tortilla in a frying pan, preferably non-stick (so you won't need oil).  Sprinkle cheese across half of the tortilla, and spread the pesto on the other half.  If you're adding extra meat or veggies, place them on the cheese-covered half, and sprinkle some extra cheese on top, to ensure that the cheese melts over and holds the delicious bits all together.

Heat for about 1 minute on high heat, or until the cheese starts to melt.  Fold the tortilla over (it's easier to fold the pesto side onto the cheese side), and continue to brown both sides until you reach your desired crispiness!  

Unit Cost
Total Cost
1 flour tortilla
1/4 C cheese


Spinach and Walnut Pesto
Total Recipe Cost: $2.52 for 1 cup of pesto!

Don't you hate it when recipes call for lemon zest, but no lemon juice?  Sadly, this one won't use up all the juice from your zested lemon.  Don't worry though, if you don't foresee finishing it in the near future, just freeze the juice in ice trays, and store frozen cubes in a ziploc bag. 

1 cup walnuts
1/3 lb spinach, flat-leaf (approx.)
zest from 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar

Arrange the walnuts in a single layer on a baking pan, and toast for 1 minute under the broiler.  This is the lazy quick way!  If you're absent-minded or prone to burning, toast instead at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the spinach, remove stems, and spin (or pat) dry.  Add the spinach, lemon zest, garlic and walnuts to a food processor, and pulse until coarsely chopped.  Pour in the olive oil, lemon juice, and sugar; pulse until it's fairly smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Use mixed with pasta--or, if you're too hungry to wait for water to boil, spread the pesto on crackers with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese for the perfect mid-afternoon (or midnight) snack.  Also coming soon... spinach pesto quesadillas. 

Unit Cost
Total Cost
1 C walnuts
1/3 lb spinach, flat-leaf
1 lemon
$0.30 each
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 C olive oil
1 t sugar, granulated
Negligible ($0.005)





  1. Mmmm, that steak picture is making me hungry!

  2. Melissa, you know I don't like vegetables, especially spinach. But I guess I'll give this a shot, because it is so far the only post within my ability level. -Gip

  3. Yum this looks so good!

  4. Divine! I love home baked quesadillas....and I love how you incorporate spinach! You rawk on!

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  6. Tina: nothing like a juicy, red steak huh? :)

    bsweetdreaming and Charissa: Thanks!!

    Camelia: Thanks for inviting me! All set and added now :)