Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thinking Outside the Bread Box – The Versatile Tortilla

Versatility, thy name is Tortilla.

This statement may come across as overdramatic, but it’s completely true.

The Tortilla is an impressively adaptable substitute for bread for sandwich-type endeavors. This makes sense considering tortillas have been around since the time of the Aztecs. They are traditionally made from corn dough called masa, shaped by hand and seared each side on a hot griddle. Today they come in all sizes and flavors – whole wheat, three cheese, sundried tomato, spinach, etc. -  and they can be stuffed with anything, hot or cold, and shaped into whatever configuration suits your taste.

Versatile tortillas use versatile ingredients.
To prove this and to celebrate the fun and flexibility of the Tortilla, I present you with three different tortilla experiences: a Wrap, a Quesadilla and a Burrito. These three tortilla-based meals can be made with very similar ingredients, depending on what you feel like. If you can't decide which one to make, there's nothing stopping you from making all three at once. Just be creative with what you have and go for it!

The Ranch Chicken Salad Wrap needs:
-Tortillas, any flavor will do
-Romaine or Iceberg lettuce, washed and torn into small bits
-Cooked chicken breast, chopped into small pieces
How stuffed can wraps get?
-Tomatoes, diced
-Red peppers, sliced
-Parmesan cheese, grated
-Ranch Salad Dressing


1-Toss the lettuce, chicken, tomatoes and ranch dressing.
2-Spoon the salad mixture into a line down the centers of the tortillas.
3-Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and add slices of red pepper.
4-Fold up the bottom of the tortilla to the centre and fold the outer ends over each other, leaving one end open.
5-Carefully place the wrap on a plate, folded side down, to keep everything together.
6-Eat it carefully to avoid it coming unwrapped. Enjoy! 

All wrapped up in tortilla goodness.
Two layers of grated cheese tops this quesadilla.
Since wraps are incredibly quick and easy to make, the hardest part will be deciding what to put in yours! Experiment with different fillings, hot or cold, and see how stuffed you can make them. There is another folding technique that completely closes the wrap off, which can be good if the one you’re making is double-stuffed and needs the extra containment. I personally prefer the open end because I can easily top it off with extra wrap stuffing.  Just like the tortillas that hold them all together, wraps are deliciously multipurpose and underrated. 

The Spicy Chicken Quesadilla needs:

-Tortillas, any flavor will do
-Cooked chicken breast, seasoned to your liking and chopped into small pieces
-Cheddar and mozzarella cheese, grated
-Red or green peppers, diced
-Tomatoes, diced
-Banana peppers or *Jalapenos (if you dare!), diced
*If you are chopping up jalapeno peppers, be very careful not to touch your face, especially your eyes, when handling jalapenos! Wash your hands and chopping station thoroughly to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. Canned jalapenos are a safe alternative as well.*
-Sour cream
-Guacamole (store bought or try making it yourself!)


1-Sprinkle a thin layer of grated cheese on half a tortilla.
2-Pile on the chicken, peppers/jalapenos and tomatoes.
3-Top with one more layer of grated cheese.
3-Fold the tortilla in half and carefully place it on a hot Panini press for 3-4 minutes.
4-Remove from heat when golden grill marks are visible and the insides are melted.
5-Slice the quesadilla into triangles and serve with sides of salsa and sour cream. 

Complete with salsa and sour cream. Guacamole is also a good side.
This Quesadilla makes a filling meal or satisfying snack. I like to season the chicken with some chili or cayenne pepper for some extra oomph. The spicy banana peppers are my favorite part; since I’m not quite ready to go all out with jalapenos, they add some heat without the complete searing of taste buds and don’t make downing ice water a requirement for enjoying this meal. 

Go as spicy as you want!

The Bean Burrito needs:

-Tortillas, any flavor will do
-1-2 cups cooked rice
-1 can of a Bean Medley (red kidney beans, chick peas, etc.)
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1 small onion, diced
-1 Tbsp minced garlic
-1-2 tsp chili or chipotle pepper (depends how spicy you want it)
-2 tsp cumin
-Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
-Red, green or yellow peppers, diced
-spinach (optional; depends how stuffed you want it)

Stuffed to the brim with rice, beans and veggies.

1-Cook the rice per the instructions (if using a rice cooker, make sure you add enough water and a little oil, to avoid the rice drying out/getting crunchy)
2-Add the oil into a heated skillet and sauté the garlic and onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
3-Rinse the beans and add to the oil, garlic and onion.
4-Add the spices and mix to coat the beans evenly. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.
5-Scoop the rice and beans into a line in the center of your tortillas.
6-Pile the veggies and sour cream on top.
7-Carefully fold the bottom up to the centre and fold the outer end over each other.
8-Flip and place folded side down to seal it.

This bean burrito adds a vegetarian option that’s super filling and very healthy.  Experiment with your favorite spices and vegetable toppings to make yours truly unique. You might even want to try seasoning the rice with a splash of lime juice and some chopped fresh cilantro (excellent flavors!). If you're not into beans - you should be because they're tasty and extremely good for you - season chicken or slices of steak with the same spices.

Whether you make it into a wrap, a grilled quesadilla or burrito, your tortilla is sure to please because versatility makes any sandwich experience fun and uniquely yours.

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