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Quesadillas Ole!

January 6, 2004

We’d reached Belize at last! Only a few months into our circumnavigation, we were supposed to be moving quickly towards Panama and a Pacific crossing, but there were so many wonderful sights to see that we lingered. San Pedro was the northern check-in point for Belize, but the officials had to be flown in from Belize City, at the cruisers’ expense. However, that was fine, we didn’t want to bypass this part of Belize to go straight to the city for a check-in. Several yachts that had arrived nearly together all chipped in to pay the official’s airfare and he set about making us legal in his country. With his crisp white shirt and dark, flashing smile, he was a contrast to the gun-toting, fatigue-uniformed, dinghy-rowing youngsters who checked us out of Mexico at Xcalak.

Soon we were exploring the town. San Pedro, on Ambergris Cay, is something of a tourist retreat, but we saw only dusty streets and little shops, white sand, and swaying palms. It was high noon and there wasn’t a soul in sight. It had a lazy feeling and didn’t seem like a bustling tourist island at all.

Then a restaurant caught our eyes that DID look like it belonged on a resort island. We’d walk back for dinner that night, but we’d have to change from our faded shorts and t-shirts and dress more appropriately for an upscale restaurant.

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That evening we were escorted to our table by a handsome young waiter wearing a white shirt, white trousers, and a bright red sash. But he was barefoot! And in spite of the plush decor, the floor was sand. With a sandy floor, I guessed the fancy waiters didn’t need shoes.

In the many miles that followed, this would be a familiar and casually accepted experience, but that night we laughed to ourselves over this most incongruous image and ordered our appetizers. Soon the mariachis were strolling among the guests, singing love songs and utterly charming our shoes right off of us as we ate one of the area’s special dishes – quesadillas.

Flour tortillas serve as the wrappers for a variety of ingredients. They can contain cheese and salsa for a simple appetizer, or meat to make a hearty entree or side dish.

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For each quesadilla –

1 teaspoon butter or margarine
2 heaping tablespoons medium to hot salsa (recipe follows)
2 heaping tablespoons Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 thin slices avocado
1 teaspoon sour cream
Shredded chicken or beef

Lightly butter one side of a tortilla and place in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Heat tortilla about one minute and turn over. While the other side heats, spread salsa, cheese, avocado slices, sour cream, and meat on one half of top. Then fold in half and remove to a platter. The warm tortilla will melt the cheese. Cut in half or thirds and serve warm. For a heartier meal, warm the tortillas as directed above, but cover the bottom tortilla with 4 tablespoons salsa, 4 tablespoons cheese, and 4 thin slices of avocado. Add shredded cooked chicken or beef and cover with a second buttered and warmed tortilla.

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Homemade Salsa

3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup green onions, tops included, sliced
1/2 cup green bell peppers, chopped
2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or bottled limejuice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients and chill for several hours.

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