If you’ve never made fresh tortillas, don’t be intimidated. Prepared masa can be bought at most Mexican markets and some restaurants; tortilla presses are readily available (even at Target). And this recipe for a flaky, fried quesadilla is about as easy as making a grilled cheese sandwich. But what a thrill it is to take this off the stove: a crackling shell filled with the earthy flavors of yellow corn, tangy cheese, and a pop of fresh epazote. Serve it with good guacamole and salsa, and maybe a few greens.
THE FILLING: In a small bowl, toss together the manchego, panela, cotija, and epazote. Set aside.
THE QUESADILLAS: Line a tortilla press with plastic, and press a ball of masa into a 7-inch circle. Place a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center, then fold the tortilla in half to form a “turnover.” Repeat until you have formed 8 turnovers.
In a deep frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high to 375°F. Using a slotted spatula, carefully slip the quesadillas into the oil without overlapping. The oil should immediately bubble around them; don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Be sure to let the tortillas turn a true golden brown so the masa cooks through and develops flavor. Serve with your favorite
salsa and guacamole.
CHEATS: If you can’t find fresh epazote in your market, try using chopped fresh cilantro or a few pinches dried Mexican oregano. Neither are the same as epazote (there is no substitute for the real thing), but the other herbs will still add a pleasing flavor contrast.
By Traci des Jardins, Mijita, San Francisco