There are so many edible flowers out there, and sadly many of us aren’t even aware of them. We are surely missing out on lots of deliciousness. Today I’d like to share with you a flower that is gorgeous to look at and oh so delectable inside of an ooey gooey quesadilla.
What is a Quesadilla?
First, for those of you that don’t know what a quesadilla (kay-sah-Dee-ya) is, it consists of a corn tortilla (occasionally wheat flour tortilla) that is warmed up on a comal (or griddle), then has cheese added to it before being folded over into a half circle and cooked until the cheese is nice and melted. Deliciousness, I tell you!
In Mexico we eat quesadillas differently than other countries’s interpretations of our cheesy treat. For starters, we don’t use yellow cheese nor a mixture of grated and spiced cheese. Typically any cheeses like stringy Oaxaca, semi-firm asadero or Chihuahua or Mexican manchego, crumbly queso fresco or squishy panela, may be used for making quesadillas. Basically if a Mexican cheese melts well you can make a quesadilla with it.
Another difference is the tortilla used for making quesadillas. When you order traditional quesadillas in restaurants, from street vendors, or at market stalls in Mexico they are always made using a freshly made corn tortilla. First the process begins with a ball of the masa, or corn dough, which is then flatten into a circle either by hand or by using a a large tortilla press. Then it is placed on top of the hot griddle and allowed to cook for a minute before being flipped over. From here the cheese is added to one half of the tortilla then any other topping that may be on offer will also be added now. Next the tortilla is folded in half to create the half circle pocket and then allowed to cook until the cheese is completely melted, then it is ready to serve.
(Please notice that in some Northern states of Mexico wheat flour tortillas are very commonly used for quesadillas. Additionally there are fried variations to the standard ones made with corn dough. )
Quesadillas in Mexico
When you eat a traditional quesadillas in Mexico you’ll notice that our quesadillas aren’t as densely packed with cheese and other ingredients, here they are thinner and much simpler than international interpretations. We do use additional fillings to accompany the cheese, like grilled peppers, mushrooms, chorizo and other meats, vegetables, and zucchini blossoms…Every region of Mexico has a unique quesadilla filling on offer.
Typically a salsa will be offered to you for drizzling on your quesadilla. The more international restaurants here in Mexico may offer you additional accompaniments like sour cream and/or guacamole. We normally eat quesadillas as a light snack or lunch or meal, and I’ve yet to see rice and beans and lettuce being served alongside a quesadilla here in Mexico — if a place does, then you know it’s geared towards tourists.
When Mexican people make quesadillas at home, if they want to put in extra effort, they too prepare the corn dough and make quesadillas like explained above. But let’s be honest, the traditional way is a time consuming process and not everyone will have access to the dough or tools needed; so I want to show you how I make quesadillas at home in a much simpler way. Instead of the dough you only need corn tortillas — store-bought are perfect! I always prefer corn based quesadillas (and tortillas) but if you only have access to wheat flour tortillas then you can use them, just be aware that the taste will differ a bit.
Zucchini Flowers (Blossoms) Are Edible? What!!
Did you know that zucchini blossoms are perfectly safe to eat? Mexicans have know for a very long time, and have incorporated them into all sorts of foods. Flores de calabaza (or zucchini flowers) are very delicate and they have a mild earthy taste (like other greens) that pairs perfectly with cheese and all sorts of other ingredients.
When the zucchini blossoms are picked it is always the male ones that are chosen; the male flowers pollinate the female ones in order for the females to produce their fruit, or zucchini in this case. If you grow your own zucchini and can tell the difference between them you can harvest the males and use them in any culinary need. If you don’t garden don’t worry because you can find zucchini blossoms at farmers markets, specialty stores and at Mexican food stores. The summer season is when you’ll be able to get your hands on them and they are typically inexpensive. If you are lucky to be visiting Mexico also look for them in the late autumn to early winter months.
How to Make Zucchini Blossom Quesadillas
This is so super easy! Once you have your blossoms you prepare them and you can simply put them between a corn tortilla and some cheese — they taste fantastic simple like this, but you can give them a little extra flavourful and spicy touch with the recipe below. Enjoy!
- 2 bunches of zucchini blossoms (mine were a total of 18 flowers, but since they wilt the more the better)
- 6 regular-sized corn tortillas
- around 300 grams 10 oz of Oaxaca cheese, pulled apart into strands (substitute with Chihuahua cheese if necessary)
- one large jalapeño or one whole habanero pepper for extra heat, finely chopped* (optional)
- ¼ wedge of a medium onion (either white or brown onion), finely chopped
- two whole cloves of garlic, finely minced
- one Tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil of choice
- fine sea salt, to taste
- salsa of choice for serving**
- These flowers are very fragile and I highly suggest not taking them out of the fridge until right before using -- also, try to cook them the same day they were purchased.
- Grab one blossom and very carefully begin to rip off the little furry green stems that go all the way around the blossom. Now ever so gently rip the blossom down towards the stem, use your fingers to rip it off and separate it from the stem and the centre bud that holds the pollen. Discard the stem and set the separated blossom aside, repeat until all of the flowers have been prepared.
- Rinse them under slow running water then place on top of paper towels to drain off all the excess water. Once dry chop the blossoms into large even-sized pieces and set aside.
- Make sure that you have everything ready to go and that you heat up a griddle or a large pan to cook the quesadillas.
- In a separate pan heat the oil and once hot add the onion, cook until soften before adding the chopped pepper bits and the minced garlic. Drizzle a little bit of fine sea salt over the ingredients and cook until everything is soft, once that is the case you can add the chopped zucchini blossoms and saute just until wilted. Turn heat off and set aside.
- Heat up the griddle or large clean pan over medium heat, and once it is hot place one corn tortilla on it. Allow to cook for a minute, flip it over and add some Oaxaca cheese to one half of the tortilla -- you can add as much or as little cheese as you'd like. When the cheese has begun melting spoon in a tablespoon or so of the zucchini blossom mixture, carefully fold the empty half of the tortilla over the filled half. Allow the quesadilla to cook for another minute or so to allow the cheese to throughly melt. The whole cooking process should only take 5 to 8 minutes. Serve the quesadillas with your favourite Mexican salsa.
**If you don't add chilies to the mixture I highly suggest serving with some salsa. You can try this salsa verde (green salsa) recipe..
I hope you get the opportunity to taste the zucchini blossom stuffed quesadillas, they are amazing and make a fantastic lunch. You are going to love how the mild flowers taste with the creaminess of the cheese, the slight sweetness of the onion and garlic, and the zestiness of the chile pepper.