Here in law-law land, discrimination is frowned on. So if the sandwich can be open faced or crostini-fied and the pizza can be stuffed or calzoned, then it’s only fair that the quesadilla have an alternative, more revealing serving method of its own. The open-faced quesadilla proudly showcases its ingredients by allowing meats and veggies that are normally trapped in tortilla to parade around in their vibrant colors, which makes for a more appetizing dish. And it’s healthier too.
One less tortilla means two things: less calories in your quesadilla without eliminating any of the good stuff inside; and less concern about indulging in a second round. To make it even healthier but no less flavorful, you can use a stronger cheese but much less of it (hello, blue cheese!), and then spread a layer of Greek yogurt on the tortilla. As it bakes, the yogurt develops a texture that’s firmer than normal but still creamy like a soft cheese, and retains a subdued tang that goes well with the sweet smokiness of roasted peppers and caramelized onions and the buttery sweetness of summer squash.
The blue cheese puts a twist on the otherwise more traditional steak-peppers-onions combination. Just a few crumbles of the sharp, salty, yet creamy cheese bring much more flavor than handfuls of cheddar can muster. Bonus: it allows you to use up the sad little clump of blue cheese that’s been sitting – unloved – in the corner of your fridge from that one time several weeks ago, when you splurged on off-season pears because you just had to have a gorgonzola and pear salad … five days in a row … and then, having tired of blue-veined cheeses, you relegated the poor chunk to the back of the fridge. And there it remained, all but forgotten, wishing and hoping and thinking and praying that you would soon develop a new fanaticism for some dish – any dish – that might allow the pungent little morsel to take back the spotlight. And finally the chance for little boy blue to make a comeback has arrived.
As far as food pairings go, steak and blue cheese were made for each other, and roasted red bell pepper was meant to be the love child that would complete their family. And they’d live happily ever after. On a quesadilla.
And then in my mouth. Chomp!!
Open-Faced Quesadilla with Steak, Roasted Red Peppers, and Blue Cheese
The first time I made these was with leftover steak and veggies (and tortillas!) from fajitas, so all I had to do was throw everything on a tortilla with some yogurt and blue cheese, then toss it in the oven for a few minutes. This time, I made everything fresh. While the fresh version was delicious enough to justify the extra effort, I think this is a particularly good way to dress up (and change the flavor palate of) fajita leftovers … or you can use leftovers from this dish to make fajitas tomorrow!
8 oz. steak
1 c. red onion, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper (should yield about 1 c. once roasted and diced)
1 c. summer squash, diced
4 medium tortillas (or more, if you don’t load yours up as much as I do)
1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 c. blue cheese, crumbled
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
several pinches of salt and pepper
Preheat oven to broil.
On a medium skillet over medium heat, begin to cook your onions with 1 Tbsp. oil and a pinch of salt. Stir them every so often while the red pepper is roasting and (if not caramelized yet) while you broil the steak. Remove onions from pan once caramelized, and set aside. But keep your pan out for the squash.
Place whole red bell pepper on foil-lined baking sheet, and roast in the oven 3 to 4 minutes per side, rotating 2 to 4 times (depending on the shape of your pepper – mine was square-ish, so it took 4 rotations) until skin is charred on all sides. Transfer charred pepper to plate and allow to cool, approximately 15 minutes. Once cool, remove and toss charred skin. Dice the roasted peppers, and set aside.
Meanwhile, rub a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper on each side of your steak. Broil steak for 3 to 4 minutes per side for rare (just two sides this time, unlike the pepper!). (Aim to undercook the meat by a few minutes – i.e., if you like your meat medium-rare, cook it to rare, or if you prefer it well-done, cook it to medium-rare; the meat will return to the oven on a tortilla later, where it will continue to cook.) Remove, and set aside (do NOT cut yet; let it rest! you don’t want all the juices going out, do you?). Reduce your oven temperature to 350F.
In the same pan used for onions, saute the squash with a pinch of salt and, if necessary, another Tbsp. of oil until squash is tender. Line a bowl with a paper towel, and pour in the cooked squash (it lets go of a lot of water during cooking, so you want to drain it a bit, thereby avoiding the nightmare that is the soggy quesadilla; the paper towel seems to soak up more liquid than is drained with a regular strainer).
Now you can dice the steak.
Onto each tortilla, evenly spread 2 Tbsp. of yogurt. Then evenly divide the steak, roasted peppers, caramelized onions and sauteed summer squash among the tortillas, sprinkling the toppings so that you ideally get all four flavors in each bite, and making sure to load up the sides more than the center so your tortilla doesn’t end up with too saggy a middled. Crumble about 2 Tbsp. of deliciously stinky blue cheese over each quesadilla. (Everything up to this point can be done in advance, covered in plastic wrap, and refrigerated for a day.)
Once you’re ready to eat, pop the quesadillas onto a foil-lined baking sheet (middle rack if you made them within a couple hours before baking; bottom rack if you made them a day ahead – ensures that the damper tortilla crisps up sufficiently). Bake in your 350F oven for 5 to 7 minutes until the edges of the tortilla feel crispy (makes them easier to eat because, let’s face it, these quesadillas are loaded). Then turn the oven to broil (while the quesadillas are still in there) and cook for 2 minutes, until the blue cheese looks melty and toppings are steamy. Remove from oven, cut each tortilla into fourths, and serve immediately.