I’ve been all about the easy no-fuss dinners lately—super simple, super quick, and packed with flavor. It seems like a tall order, but after getting a little crafty in the kitchen and playing with a little fusion, I’ve found a new favorite that our family has been absolutely obsessed with: masala vegetable quesadillas.
Growing up, my mom was all about the quesadillas for after-school food. She still has the same blue Tupperware container she used then to combine the filling so she could whip them up the moment we were pulling into the driveway. It was usually a blend of chopped tomatoes, carrots, finely chopped spinach, and broccoli (perhaps she was trying to sneak some extra greens into our diets?), and some grated cheese. She’d pack it all between two tortillas, grill it off, and slice it up for my brother and me.
Obviously, my brother and I’s palettes have evolved a little since then, and we lean into more aromatics and herbs in our quesadillas these days, but there’s still something nostalgic about a crispy tortilla being dipped into sour cream.
So recently, my brother and I got a little crafty and started rethinking our quesadilla memories with a new combination. Taking the familiar flavors of my mom’s sabzi and combining them with a little melty cheese and guac has turned into the most magical and delicious treat that both of us are obsessed with.
To keep things simple, we kept our veggie selection small. Just some sliced bell peppers, jalapeños, onions, and black beans. What brings it all together is the tomato masala that is loaded with the spices that are always found in my mom’s kitchen: a little cumin, garam masala, chili powder, and turmeric. At first, we were convinced that this would taste too much like sabzi just stuffed into a tortilla, but with the addition of a nice creamy blend of queso fresca and Mexican cheese blend, we were both surprised at the entirely new experience of it all. Serve with guacamole and sour cream and it’s two of my favorites in one.
The best part is that you can make the veggies in advance and just assemble and cook when ready. The perfect make-ahead meal for those Monday nights when even thinking about what to make for dinner is too much effort. The combinations are endless, and it’s the perfect, easy, flavor-packed meal.
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- 2-3 tbsp neutral oil
- 3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder (more or less based on preference)
- 1 heaping tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 bell peppers, sliced into strips
- 1 jalapeno, sliced into strips
- 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- tortillas of choice
- cheese (I used a blend of queso fresco and shredded Mexican blend)
- to serve: guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cilantro, lime
- In a large stove top pan, add the oil and bring up to a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook for about a minute until the seeds become golden.
- Add the onion and stir to combine. Cook until the onions have become just translucent and are starting to soften, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce and remaining spices. Stir to combine and heat through until fragrant and the sauce has taken on a rich red color, about five minutes.
- Add the sliced peppers and stir to coat. Cook until the peppers have softened slightly.
- Remove pan from heat and add the black beans. Stir to combine.
- To assemble, layer a tortilla with the spiced pepper mix and cheese. Cook on a medium-high heat grill until both sides are golden and the cheese has melted.
- Serve with desired toppings, enjoy!
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What about the gar masala?