Melding Your Way from the Middle East to Mexico and Middle Americana in One Recipe
My kingdom for a couple of slices of white bread for my grilled cheese sandwich!
Drat! I was forced to make do with frozen pita bread, my last minute option. Eureka! Here is a new way to serve grilled cheese sandwiches or lightening-fast quesadillas — Pita Quesadillas! — a favorite Mexican appetizer. Did I mention easy-peasy?
Pita bread, a round, flat bread from the Middle East, offers toothiness along with nutty flavor.
I also soon learned if you turn the pita inside out—to make the pocked interior the exterior— like a sponge it soaks up the pan butter and crisps the sandwich. Skip the traditional mess and time by tossing the butter directly into the pan.
To make this sandwich a Pita Quesadilla add a light touch of chopped jalapeños, cooked sausage, or thin tomato slices; I’ll show you below.
I prefer to buy good quality block cheese and slice it with a serrated (bread) knife into 1/8-inch slabs. You can then cut these into smaller pieces to place onto the pita in a single layer. You need about 2-1/2 slices per one pita.
Serves 2-4 as appetizer or 1 to 2 as a sandwich
PITA GRILLED CHEESE
butter 2 TBS.
pita bread 2 rounds (8-inch). I used Trader Joe’s brand
mustard 2 TBS.
cheese, cheddar 5 slices 1/8” thick, or Monterrey Jack, or cheese combo of choice
OPTIONS: cooked bacon bits, thin tomato slices, drained on paper toweling
- Omit the mustard and choose one or more below
pickled jalapeños 2 TBS. chopped
tomato 1 small thinly sliced rounds, drained on paper toweling
chorizo sausage 1/4 cup browned and drained
cilantro 1/4 cup loose packed, coarsely chopped
SERVING SUGGESTION: salsa, pico de gallo
Try to source good quality pitas from Middle Eastern stores. I also like Trader Joe’s pita, if available. Pita freezes well. Look for thin rounds, about 8 inches in diameter.
Halve the pita and then using scissors cut each into half-rounds to produce 4 half-rounds. Flip them on the cutting board so the exterior is facing up.
For grilled cheese, add mustard, then add the cheese. Place the cheese within a 1/2-inch of the edges. You don’t need to be precise; the cheese will melt and fill in the blank spots.
Preheat a large skillet on medium heat, (non-stick is a good choice). Add the butter and then the pitas in a single layer. You may need to cook them in multiple batches. When bottom develops brown spots, flip (2-3 minutes) and repeat. Allow to cool a minute and then cut and serve immediately or keep warm.
To make Pita Quesadillas, eliminate the mustard and include small amounts of any variety of Mexican toppings along with the cheese.
Plan a Pita Quesadilla Party! Set up a condiment bar. It takes only minutes to make up and grill. Have the Margaritas chillin’.
MASTERY EN PLACE:
Letting Go and Braving New Culinary Frontiers
In my cooking classes students often struggled making quesadillas. I soon realized they weren’t familiar with the dish and the name. My disarming solution was to let them know they’re making grilled cheese sandwiches from Mexico. It was a pleasure to watch the tension release as they got back into the dish.
Be brave and fearless with new cooking styles. It’s only food. If you fail there is always the dog bowl or compost pile. But, many times, trust me, something new comes of it.
If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story. – Terry Pratchett
© Bill Hettig, firstname.lastname@example.org