The Pequena quesadilla (featured below, left) oozes with cheese. The tortillas are perfectly crisp. The plantains are sweet and just dripping with moisture. The black beans are in perfect proportion to the plantains. It's topped with a hot salsa and a little more cheese.
For my first attempt, I sprayed the tortillas with a little cooking spray, sauteed the sweet plantains in just a bit of canola oil and butter, and added a tablespoon or two of cheese to each quesadilla. The finished product was not even close to the quesadilla that I loved. Where was the crisp shell? Where where the plump plantains and the oozing cheese?
A few modifications later, I had a quesadilla I was happy with that was still decently healthy. I buttered the tortillas (lightly) on one side, bumped up the ratio of butter to olive oil so it was equal, let the plantains blacken until they seemed almost inedible (to get that sweet flavor I was craving), and upped the cheese quantity slightly.
The end result is something I can not only enjoy eating for a few lunches and dinners in a row but feel good about.
And thankfully, Pequena is just a few blocks away when a craving for an authentic black bean and sweet plantain quesadilla strikes.
Black Bean and Sweet Plantain Quesadillas
adapted from Pequena's black bean and sweet plantain quesadilla dish
Every two plantains used yield four six-inch quesadillas. I find that one quesadilla, with some small side dishes, is what I want for a meal. Feel free to scale up the recipe accordingly.
Use the blackest plantains you can find. If your plantains are even slightly yellow, they are missing some of the sweetness that makes these quesadillas so desirable. If you buy yours yellow, let them sit on the counter for a few days to blacken up.
2 blackened sweet plantains
8 six-inch corn tortillas
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Mexican farmer's cheese (I start with a 16-ounce container from the dairy section of the grocery store, and I break off chunks as needed. One container lasts me through several rounds of quesadillas.)
Salsa, if desired, to top
Prepare Tortillas: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Using the 1/2 tablespoon of butter, butter 1 side of 8 tortillas. Place 4 tortillas butter-side down on an ungreased baking sheet.
Cook Plantains and Beans: Slice sweet plantains into 1/3-inch rounds. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add sweet plantains in a flat layer. Allow the sweet plantains to cook for a few minutes before flipping, so a brown crust develops on one side of the plantain. Flip the plantains and continue cooking, until browned and softened, about 10 minutes. Add the can of black beans and saute until warmed. Remove from heat.
Fill Quesadillas: Grate about 1 tablespoon of farmer's cheese onto each tortilla. Top with several spoonfuls of plantains and black beans, distributing the mixture equally among the tortillas. Grate 1-2 more tablespoons of farmer's cheese onto each quesadilla, and top with another tortilla, butter side up.
Cook Quesadillas: Place tortillas in the oven. After about 4 minutes (when tortillas are browned on the bottom), remove the baking sheet from the oven and flip the quesadillas carefully. Return to the oven and bake 2 to 3 more minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Serve immediately, topped with a bit of salsa and a sprinkle of cheese.
To save the quesadillas for later, cool completely, and then wrap in aluminum foil. Reheat in the toaster oven.