“Almost” Quesadillas (AKA Quesa-Dilos)

Queso 2

(Vegan Quesadillas with Spicy Cashew Cheese and Southwestern Veggies)

John Dilorenzo knows balance.  Whether it’s the balance between going big and going tech or the literal balance on his drool-worthy manual combos, Dilo evens out the scales with enough mastery to make Thanos swoon.   From his “Welcome to Almost” part to his clips in Flora, Ep. 1, Dilo demonstrates a level of control over his board that few can hope to possess.

Don’t believe me? Numbers don’t lie:

Ok, so other than calling these quesa-Dilos, what does this recipe have to do with Dilo? Much like Dilo’s calling card, quesadillas are about balance.  While vegan cheese has vastly improved in recent years (let’s be honest: until recently, store-bought vegan cheese was a depressingly poor substitute for the most chemically addictive food known to man), it’s still fairly expensive (and nutritionally empty) to just slather some packaged cheese between two tortillas and call it a quesadilla. If you’re looking for a quesadilla that actually nourishes you, it’s best to roll up your sleeves and make that cheese yourself.

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And to that end, a proper vegan quesadilla requires a delicate balance of cheese and veggies to satisfy your south-of-the-border cravings.  Too many veggies and you essentially have just a flat taco; too much vegan cheese and it’s just a mushy sandwich that shoots veggies out of the sides with every bite.  Further, within that cheesy side of the scale, the perfect homemade cheese requires a careful balance of spices in order to complement the overall flavor of the quesadilla.  Too many cashews and it’s a bland mush; too many spices make it feel like it’s overcompensating.

I’m proud to say that this quesadilla is about as balanced as they come. The cheese is a cashew base spiced with jalapeno, chipotle powder and paprika in order to give it a smoky, spicy flavor; the quesadilla itself is balanced with a full deck of veggies including bell peppers, corn, black beans, spinach and onions, all cooked with lime juice, chili powder, cayenne, cumin and oregano. Add in some mashed avocado and cook it until it’s just browned and slightly crispy and you’re left with a veggie-packed cheesy quesadilla fit for a god.

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Sound like the kind of balance you’re into?  Here’s how it’s done:

CHEESE INGREDIENTS (enough for 5-6 full-sized quesadillas):

  • 1 1/3 cup raw cashews (120g), soaked
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (nooch)
  • ½ jalapeno, diced
  • Squeeze of ½ lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. dried mustard
  • ¼ tsp. chipotle powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ – ½ cup almond milk (depending on preferred consistency)

QUESADILLA INGREDIENTS (enough for 5-6 full-size quesadillas):

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small-medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 can (15 oz) sweet kernel corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1-2 cups frozen spinach
  • ½ jalapeno, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Squeeze of ½ lime
  • ½ tbsp. chili powder
  • ½ tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • ½ tsp. cayenne powder
  • ¼ tsp. chipotle powder
  • 1 avocado, pitted and mashed
  • 10-12 Vegan tortillas of your choice

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Start by putting the kettle on and boiling enough water to cover your cashews; once boiling, throw the cashews and water into a glass bowl and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. Once soaked, drain the cashews and add them to a blender along with the nooch, jalapeno, lemon, garlic and spices.  Blend them up, adding the almond milk in small amounts until you reach the desired level of thickness.  The cheese should be relatively thick for these quesadillas but shouldn’t have any chunks of cashew remaining.  Feel free to adjust spices to taste.
  2. Set the cheese aside and start slicing up your quesadilla veggies. Add the olive oil to a pan on medium heat on stove top and toss the onions into the pan.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until they start to brown.  Then add in the bell pepper, corn and black beans and cook for another 2-3 minutes before tossing in the spinach and cooking for another minute.  Add in the jalapeno, garlic, lime and spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring until the spices are warm and all mixed in with the veggies.
  3. On a separate prep station, add 1-2 tablespoons of cheese sauce to two tortillas (one side of each tortilla) and then spoon a generous serving of veggies and mashed avocado in between the tortillas. Press them together and cook the quesadilla on stovetop on low-medium heat until the tortillas brown to your liking. Repeat until tortillas and mix are gone and then go work on your manual combos so you can skate like Dilo.

Happy shredding,

Johnny

Queso 1

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