What is it that makes comfort food so comforting? Is it indulging in food that tastes so good it must be bad for you? Is it the warmth of the food itself? (Clearly not, or a bowl of fudge brownie ice cream would not be quite so comforting!) Is it the memories associated with the food itself?
If it is the memories, then Sweet Potato Quesadillas are comforting to me for two reasons.
The first is that I made quesadillas for my husband while we were dating, once we realized that as much fun as it was to go out for dinner, we’d better start stocking the fridge and making meals at our apartments so we could save up for a life together.
The second is that sweet potatoes were always part of holiday traditions. At the homeschool co-op I attended as a kid, we had a Thanksgiving dinner together every year, and I always hoped I would be at the front of the line so that the other kids wouldn’t have devoured my friend’s mom’s sweet potato casserole yet. I could never figure out why it wasn’t on the dessert table instead of part of the dinner spread since the butter, pecans, brown sugar and coconut made it seem just like a pie without the pie crust. Soon, my friend’s mom shared her recipe with my mom. That meant that sweet potato casserole would not just be a fuzzy memory of kids standing in line, but a staple of our family holidays.
So, as far as memories go, sweet potato quesadillas pack a punch. I discovered this recipe a few months ago. Like many favorite recipes I’ve discovered over the past year or so, it comes from Simply in Season. If you’re used to traditional quesadillas, you may be wondering if something with sweet potatoes, basil and marjoram in it can really count, but the word “quesadilla” comes from the Spanish word for cheese (queso) and tortilla, so this recipe definitely has those bases covered.
This recipe yields a big batch of comfort food, but I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge the notion that comfort food has to be an artery-clogging indulgence. Two of these quesadillas will give you 65% of your daily value of vitamin C, and sweet potatoes are also high in potassium, which can protect you against both muscle cramps and the negative affects of stress (so sweet potatoes provide natural, healthy comfort!). Also, these soft quesadillas are baked instead of fried, so you can use a fraction of the oil quesadillas normally require.
Here’s how to make them.
- 1½ cups minced onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 4 cups baked, mashed sweet potato
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1½ tsp each dried basil, marjoram, chili powder
- 1½ tsp ground cumin
- pinch of ground red pepper or to taste (optional)
- 8 tortillas
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- olive oil
- You can bake and skin the sweet potato the night before if you want to save prep time. Better yet, serve baked sweet potatoes with dinner the night before (the Wolff family has a great recipe for these) and set 3-4 baked sweet potatoes aside. Next time around, I'd also love to throw a few sweet potato skins in the mix since the skin is so nutritious.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Saute onions and garlic in a large pan with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are translucent.
- Add all the spices and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the mashed sweet potatoes and cook until heated through.
- Scoop out ½ cup of sweet potato mixture and spread it onto a tortilla. Top with about 2 tablespoons of cheese. Repeat until you have 8 quesadillas, or just make a few and keep the sweet potato mixture in the fridge until you're ready to eat another round of quesadillas. The mixture will keep well for a few days, and the flavors will blend even more.
- Dribble some oil on a baking pan, arrange quesadillas on the pan, and bake them for 15-20 minutes until golden brown, flipping them once.
- Slice them up, serve them with salsa, sour cream or an extra sprinkling of cheese and enjoy this flavorful, healthy comfort food!
I love cumin, so I might just have added a tiny bit more than the recipe called for. If one of these spices is your favorite and you want to add more than the recipe calls for, that works for me!