Hibiscus Quesadillas (Quesadilla con Flor de Jamaica)
Dried hibiscus is cheap and plentiful, usually available in specialty grocery stores or international supermarket bulk bins. It has a place in kitchens around the world, in drinks and syrups and remedies and stews. The calyxes of the flower — the part we actually eat — also happen to have a high pectin content, making them ideal for jelly making. Lately, the ingredient has been marketed as a kind of health food, or meat substitute, but the ingredient has deep, ancient roots and stands on its own. Adriana Almazán Lahl, who owns a catering business in San Francisco, rehydrates the flowers and sautés them with onion and chiles, then folds the spicy mixture into flour tortillas with a little cheese. The result is a quick, delicious meal, and an excellent way to use up the entire flower. Be sure to rinse the hibiscus well before you get started; grit hides in its folds.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1(packed) cup dried hibiscus
- 3tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
- 1yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1jalapeño, halved, seeded then thinly sliced lengthwise
- Kosher salt and ground pepper
- ¼pound quesillo, torn into bite-size pieces, or 1 cup grated Monterey Jack
- 4large flour tortillas
- 1handful cilantro leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
Step 1Rinse hibiscus under running water to remove any grit. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add hibiscus, and simmer for 2 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid for another use (see introduction). Rinse and chop the hibiscus.
Step 2In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and jalapeño, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just starting to lightly brown, about 6 minutes. Add the hibiscus, and sauté until the mixture is shiny and most of the water has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper, and set aside. Wipe out skillet.
Step 3Divide the cheese evenly among the tortillas, sprinkling it to cover 1/2 of each. Scatter the hibiscus mixture on top of the cheese, followed by the cilantro. Fold the tortillas over the filling into half-moon shapes, pressing down firmly.
Step 4Add the remaining oil to the skillet, and heat over a medium flame. Gently slide 2 quesadillas into the hot pan, and cook until the cheese has melted and the tortilla is golden brown underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully flip quesadillas, and cook until the other side is golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining quesadillas, and serve immediately.