I was surprised when I realized I hadn’t yet shared this recipe with you. Inspired by an ad for Goya brand black beans in a magazine that I was reading probably 4 or 5 years ago now, it’s one of those dishes I find myself making time and again. The concept is simple: a nutritious, whole grain tortilla stuffed with sweet potatoes, black beans, onions, and cumin. There are a few more ingredients, but these flavors compose the foundation.
This time, when making it specifically to share with you here, its nuances and subtleties caught my attention more than usual. The flavor was good, a solid start indeed, yet it yearned for something to brighten it up…the fresh cilantro taking up residence in my refrigerator had already been committed to another recipe, but it could spare a small handful of leaves, I thought. Perfect. A little garlic never hurt anyone, either. Now how about balance? While I adored the sweetness of the potato, I realized it was overpowering the dish. It needed something to pull against it, a contrasting flavor. Crushed red pepper imparted just the right amount of heat. A sprinkling of salt, and the mixture was complete.
A quesadilla isn’t one without the cheese, though you’ll notice that I keep it minimal here. I’ve chosen Monterey Jack for its mild flavor and meltability; if you want more, feel free to pile it on. Sour cream plus a little extra cilantro to finish, and I’d say this makes for a hearty, satisfying meal.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- Kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup mashed, cooked sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese
- Sour cream
- Swirl the olive oil in a skillet that has been heated over medium high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and sauté 3-4 minutes until the onions start to soften. Add the minced garlic, reduce the heat to medium, and cook about 5 minutes more until the onion just starts to brown.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sautéed onion and garlic with the black beans, mashed sweet potato, cilantro, cumin, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir the ingredients until they are well combined, then taste and add additional salt and crushed red pepper flakes until the flavor suites your preference.
- To cook the quesadillas, you’ll need a good size skillet or griddle (I use the same skillet that I cooked the onions in, but I give it a quick wash and dry before proceeding). As the pan is heating up over medium high heat, scoop about a 1/3 cup of the prepared black bean and sweet potato mixture and spread it evenly on half of a tortilla. Place the tortilla in the preheated pan, sprinkle ¼ cup of shredded cheese over the filling, then fold the tortilla in half. Cook for 2-4 minutes until the tortilla is browned, then use a spatula to flip it and cook the other side.
- Repeat with the process with the remaining tortillas, filling, and cheese until all the quesadillas have been made. Serve warm with sour cream and minced cilantro if desired.
Recipe inspired by Better Homes and Gardens, or was it Martha Stewart? I’m not sure, and the interwebs are failing me in my search to locate the original source.
Tips and Tidbits
- Let’s talk sweet potatoes! One medium potato is all you’ll need, and you can cook it however you like – microwave it, steam it, roast it – it’s totally up to you! (Though you might be interested to know that roasting will yield the sweetest result.) Often, I’ll toss a few in the oven whole when I’m already firing it up for something else. 400 degrees is a good temperature, and I let them cook for about an hour until they are easily pierced with a fork. You can cook them at a lower or higher temperature if you want, just know that it will take a little more or less time depending on the variation.
- This is one of my favorite make-ahead meals. The filling can be made in advance (and the amount can easily be doubled), and then when you are ready to eat, it only takes a few minutes of prep before dinner is served!
- I don’t often have white tortillas on hand, but I recently tried this recipe with those instead of the whole wheat ones, and I was surprised that I didn’t love the flavor combo. The nutty flavor of the whole wheat offers a heartier and more substantial balance to the sweetness of the potatoes.