Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fried Avocado Quesadillas with Sweetest Pico de Gallo

Frying avocado? Crisping up the delicious, rich green-fleshed fruit with oil might seem like gilding the lily, a cooking act similar to wrapping bacon around rich shrimp or deep-frying cheese. Such were my thoughts when perusing the new cookbook, The New Southwest: Classic Flavors with a Modern Twist by Meagan Micozzi of Scarletta Bakes, which includes this lovely recipe for Fried Avocado Quesadillas.

Since both fried cheese and bacon-wrapped shrimp are downright delicious, frying avocado like hash to create the filling of a meatless quesadilla seemed like a straight-forward slamdunk of decadence. And yep. Oh, yes. Indeed. These were rich, cheesy, tasty decadence.

While the recipe makes two quesadillas, those will be thick and filling beasts. Feel free to make three quesadillas with the filling and pico if you'd like to stretch the meal.

Fried Avocado Quesadillas with Sweetest Pico de Gallo
Yield: 2 very large quesadillas, 8 wedges

For the sweetest pico de gallo:
1 cup quartered seedless green grapes
1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1 large jalapeno, minced (seeded or not, your choice)
2 stems parsley, minced
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

For the quesadillas:
6 large avocados, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2/3 cup plain, dry breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
Canola oil
4 (9 or 10-inch) flour tortillas (or 6, see note above)
2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese (or mild Cheddar)

To make the salsa: 
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.

To prepare the filling: 
Place the avocados in a large bowl and mash into chunks. (Over-mashing the avocados makes the frying more difficult. Think about it like frying a hash, which always has a chunky consistency.)
Stir in the lime juice, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper until evenly distributed. Heat 1 Tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat in a 10-inch, heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably cast iron. Once the oil is hot, add about half of the avocado mixture and spread loosely over the bottom. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the underside of the avocado is crisp and golden. Flip the avocado and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove fried avocado to a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet. Repeat with the second half of the mixture.

To assemble and cook: 
Remove the skillet from heat and line with a tortilla. Top with even layers of half the avocado mixture, half of the salsa and half the cheese. Top with a second tortilla. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the quesadilla through into quarters. (This great technique really helps with flipping.) Return the skillet to the stove and cook over medium heat, pressing on the top of the quesadilla a bit as it cooks. Fry until the edges of the tortilla are crisp and golden, about 3-4 minutes. Flip each quarter and cook for approximately 4 more minutes. Remove cooked the wedges and repeat with remaining ingredients.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

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