Sure, this is a simple dish to prepare, but, what do you expect when we get back from traveling? Some fancy meal? Nope, something simple, nourishing, and good. But, don’t worry; though these sound like ordinary quesadillas, we added a Scratchin’ It touch that makes them just a bit more special. Read on and see.
Now, we, being dedicated scratchers, made these quesadillas 100% from scratch (okay, not the cheese). Naturally, we don’t expect that everyone will make the beans, the tortillas, and roast the sweet potatoes; however, you can do pretty well with canned beans, and, at least here in Tucson, you can head down to your local tortillaria for some mighty fine, freshly-made, tortillas.
Now, to be honest, we didn’t make up a batch of black beans just for these quesadillas. That would be silly. Instead, we made a large batch for beans and rice and had leftover black beans. That makes sense. We did roast the sweet potatoes just for this, and we list suggested spices, but you know what you like, so change them up to suit your taste. We decided to use cumin because it’s such a common flavoring in Mexican food, but everything else was thought up by looking in the cupboards and seeing what we had available. When we make these again, we could see using oregano, chili powder, a bit of thyme, or whatever appeals at the moment. For the cheese, just pick a cheese that melts well; we used Cheddar, but Monterey Jack or Brie would work wonders.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment for easy cleanup. If you’ve not used baking parchment — we didn’t for years — try it once and you’ll never want to do without. We buy large rolls online because it’s expensive at the grocery store.
Toast and grind. Place the cumin seeds in a small heavy skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking or stirring often, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Spices are really easy to burn, so watch them closely. Once the cumin is toasted, grind it somehow. You know what tools you have, but a small spice grinder is perfect, or a mortar and pestle, or even just crush them in a bowl with the back of a spoon. Once ground, transfer to a medium bowl and add salt, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, black pepper, and vegetable oil. Mix thoroughly and set aside for now.
Peel and slice. Even though we’re peeling these sweet potatoes — you don’t have to, as the skins are edible — we wash them to get off the dust and dirt. Then, simply peel and slice into rounds that are about 1/2 inch thick.
Toss and coat. Place the sweet potato rounds in the spice mixture and toss to coat completely and evenly.
Bake. Transfer the coated rounds to the lined baking sheet, placing them in a single layer. If possible, leave a bit of space between the rounds so the edges can be hit by the hot dry air in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the slices are tender, flipping each piece about halfway through.
Grill. If you’re making the tortillas from scratch, divide the dough into four pieces and roll each into a circle about 8 inches across. We never get them round; instead, we wind up with misshapen tortillas, but that just demonstrates that they’re made by hand. If you’re using purchased tortillas, you won’t have to grill them as long, but the procedure will be the same. Place the tortilla on a preheated griddle over medium heat. Grill for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom starts to turn brown in spots. Flip, scoop on some beans, some potatoes, and cheese, keeping on about half of the tortilla so you can fold it. Continue to cook for about a minute, then fold the tortilla over and cook until the cheese melts and everything is heated through.
It’s always nice to have something simple for lunch, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste great. It may seem like a lot of trouble to roast up sweet potatoes for a few quesadillas, but we find that if we just plan, it really isn’t that much of a bother. If we’d though of it early enough, we would have just done the potatoes the previous time we were baking; after all, cooked sweet potatoes will keep nicely, just as our leftover beans had. Just be sure to toss them in a spice coating; an extra five minutes’ works is what it takes to make these Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas worth five stars.