Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Black Bean and Sweet Plantain Quesadillas: Pequena Style

One of the problems with recreating your favorite restaurant dishes at home is that you are forced to actually confront how unhealthy the dishes are. This has been my main dilemma while recreating Pequena's black bean and sweet plantain quesadillas.

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.


  1. I am so glad you commented on my ice cream cupcakes because I was looking for a way to use black beans and I love plantains -- making this tomorrow!

  2. Teresa, I'm so glad you found it. This dish is one of my favorites. I'm craving it right now!

  3. Katie! I bought everything for these, and think I am going to make them either tonight or tomorrow!

    I am going to throw in some onion, Serrano chiles (for spice), and use montaray jack instead of Farmers... also I may toss in some cinnamon : )

  4. That sounds delicious! I can't wait to hear how they turn out. I love the idea of adding a little spice. Have you ever had quesadillas with cinnamon before?

  5. These look good and I love how you made them more calorie friendly, etc. I have NEVER cooked with a plantain before, I think it's time, what do you think? This sounds like an excellent way to start. Thanks.

  6. Kayte, I think you'll find cooking with plantains really easy and manageable. A little butter and oil go a long way to make the plantains perfect. Just let them get really black before you start cooking! Enjoy!

  7. These turned out great! Reminded me of studying abroad in Honduras where I pretty much survived on black beans and plantains. And the little bit of butter is the secret to replicating those-- I had been using only oil up till now!

  8. Teresa, I'm so glad to hear it! The butter really helps bring out the sweetness in the plantains. I'd love to be in a situation where I had to survive on just beans and plantains for a few weeks.