There is arguably nothing that satisfies more simply and universally than cheese melted on toasted bread, which is why there are countless variations on that theme across cultures. The accompanying recipe borrows from one of those: the Mexican quesadilla, where, of course, tortillas are the “bread.”
Consider this a quick, healthfully balanced meal with intercontinental flair. The wealth of vegetables here make all the difference for flavor and nutrition, with a bounty of meaty mushrooms sliced and sauteed with onion until they are nicely browned, and a heap of fresh spinach, cooked until just wilted. They are seasoned with garlic, smoky Spanish paprika and a splash of sherry vinegar, and piled onto whole-grain flour tortillas that have been smeared generously with soft goat cheese (which is lower in calories and saturated fat than hard cheese such as cheddar).
When toasted in the skillet, the tortillas brown and crisp and the cheese melts and fuses with the vegetables for a fast-cooked meal that begs to be devoured immediately.
• Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.
Mushroom, Spinach and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
This recipe turns a quesadilla into a quick, healthfully balanced meal with a bounty of vegetables that are sauteed, then piled onto whole-grain flour tortillas that have been smeared generously with soft goat cheese, which is inherently lower in calories and saturated fat than a hard cheese such as cheddar.
– From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
10 ounces button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 small red onion, cut into thin half moon slices
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped (4 cups lightly packed)
4 ounces soft goat cheese (chevre), at room temperature
Four 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms and onion; cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their water and begin to brown, and the onion has softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the smoked paprika, vinegar, salt and pepper, then add the spinach and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until just wilted. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Wipe out the skillet.
Spread the goat cheese on one half of each tortilla, then distribute the mushroom mixture on top of the goat cheese. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling to create a half-moon-shaped quesadilla.
Brush the skillet lightly with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Working with 2 quesadillas at a time, cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until they are golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melting.
Cut into wedges and serve.
• Nutrition per serving: 290 calories, 13 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 580 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar