Some day, maybe even in the next few years, Harry will eat a wide variety of foods. He’ll be eight soon, which rumor has it can be a turning point for picky eaters. In recent months my son has learned to appreciate the salty, beefy chew of a well-grilled steak and the crunchy top layer of homemade baked mac & cheese. But—god forbid we should make any real progress here—at the same time, he’s also dropped a handful of things from his will-eat list: blueberries fresh or in baked goods, peaches, string cheese, yogurt.
Some nights I want to scream at him. I have to leave the table to avoid doing this:
Other times I calm myself with the reassurance I got from Ellyn Satter a few months back: He’s like me. He needs to grow into his sensitive tastebuds. Right now the flavors that Stephen and I enjoy simply overwhelm him.
Dinnertimes work best lately when I prepare what I think of as a “satellite” meal: A centerpiece that’s extremely customizable, with bowls full of options surrounding it. We each assemble our own dish, and we’re all happy. It’s worked with potato skins and potpies, taco salad and Korean beef-and-noodle wraps. And it’s working with quesadillas.
Serves as many as you want
The easiest way to make more than one quesadilla is in the oven. You’ll need two tortillas per quesadilla; I prefer small corn ones just because I find them tastier, but flour tortillas work too. For a small tortilla, figure an ounce or two of shredded cheese and a few tablespoons of filling per quesadilla, and two or three quesadillas per adult. If you’re using burrito-sized tortillas use just one, folded in half, and double the filling.
Our typical quesadilla bar includes shredded extra-sharp Cheddar for me and Stephen plus shredded mozzarella for the boy (hey, it’s his only acceptable cheese). Beyond that, we’ve used:
- Cooked chicken, Mexican chorizo, or brisket
- Chopped roasted vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, or winter squash
- Rinsed and drained canned black beans
- Finely chopped red bell pepper
- Fresh or defrosted frozen corn kernels
- Thawed, squeezed-out frozen chopped spinach
- Leftover garlicky cooked kale
- Sliced black olives
- Caramelized onions
- Chopped scallions, shallots, or red onion
Stephen likes to eat his with sour cream, avocado, and cilantro (Harry and I, not so much) so if I think of it I’ll pick some up. Salsa is a given, though of course the kid won’t touch it.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Coat a baking sheet, as well as one side of each tortilla, with nonstick spray or brush lightly with vegetable oil. Lay half the tortillas on the sheet, oiled side down.
- Let each person pile on the fillings—whatever combination appeals will work, as long as it’s topped with melty cheese.
- Cover each quesadilla with a second tortilla, press lightly, and pop it into the oven.
- Bake for 4 to 5 minutes, then take the tray out of the oven and flip the quesadillas—carefully—with a spatula. Use two spatulas if you’re having trouble. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is browned and crispy, another 4 to 5 minutes.
- Cut into quarters (I use a pizza cutter) and serve with salsa, sour cream, avocado, and cilantro.
MAKE BABY FOOD: The baby-friendliness of a quesadilla depends on the baby and the fillings, but a make-your-own quesadilla bar offers loads of finger food options. Shredded cheese and anything on the list of fillings above could work. Even as an infant Harry loved olives (though don’t go too crazy with them, since they’re full of sodium).
What’s your favorite quesadilla combo? I like mine pretty straightforward: corn, black beans, and red bell peppers, plus a little chicken or chorizo. Boring, maybe, but so satisfying. I can’t wait until Harry learns to agree—until then I’m just fine with his again-and-again favorite, mozzarella and sliced olives.