This Mushroom Quesadilla Will Introduce You to Your New Favorite Greens

published Sep 15, 2022
Quesadilla de Quelite y Champiñón (Mushroom and Purslane Quesadillas)

Earthy mushrooms, tender verdolaga (purslane), and herbaceous epazote star in these super satisfying vegan tacos.

Serves12

Makes12 small quesadillas

Prep1 hour 20 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 1 hour

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Quesadilla de quelites plated on surface
Credit: Photo: Yudi Ela Echevarria; Food Stylist; Ashley Nevarez; Prop Stylist: Nidia Cueva

This recipe is part of Kitchn 100 — the hundred recipes you need right now. Check out all of the amazing dishes, from Kitchn and beyond, here.

It took me quite a few years before I heard about quelites, or even tried them in my little hometown of Ensenada, the coastal city famous for its fish tacos, ceviches, and lobster.

In my early 20s, I visited a small local Oaxacan restaurant where the food was somewhat different from our usual seafood fare. I ordered a quesadilla de champiñones, and the tortilla was a shape I wasn’t accustomed to — long and oval with a dark-blue hue. With the first bite came a deep, fragrant flavor from what I later learned was epazote. Fresh and herbaceous, it’s a flavor that one doesn’t soon forget.

Epazote is a quelite — young and tender edible plants, herbs, and flowers endemic to all of Mexico — and I now use it every time I set a pot of beans. Although I didn’t grow up with them, quelites now hold a familiar place in my kitchen.  

These days, as a mother and a vegan Mexican living abroad, it’s not only become important to preserve the family traditions we grew up with, but also to create new ones from the ingredients and dishes we try along the way. Because even as I prepare something as simple as a vegan quesadilla for my son, I’m passing down bits of our culture, our beliefs, and also our stories that continue living through the memory of taste.

Credit: Photo: Yudi Ela Echevarria; Food Stylist; Ashley Nevarez; Prop Stylist: Nidia Cueva

In this recipe, I return to the memory of my first epazote quesadilla. To make them vegan I use plant-based cheese, and to add a taste of summer I stuff them with a guisado of verdolagas, a purslane stew prepared “a la Mexicana” with onion, tomato, and garlic. Purslane, a quelite with a tender bite and mildly acidic notes reminiscent of nopales, partners beautifully with meaty seared mushrooms and fresh epazote leaves. Paying tribute to the milpa system, this quesadilla offers a taste of the earth.

The vegetables are enveloped in a maíz tortilla made with fresh blue masa (or whatever masa you have on hand) and topped with melted vegan cheese and chiltomate salsa made using charred tomatoes and fruity habanero chile. This dish makes for a great brunch for small gatherings with family and friends, although the truth is there really isn’t a moment when a quesadilla is not welcomed. And when paired with the smell of a freshly made maíz tortilla, the heart of every Mexican is called home.

Quesadilla de Quelite y Champiñón (Mushroom and Purslane Quesadillas)

Earthy mushrooms, tender verdolaga (purslane), and herbaceous epazote star in these super satisfying vegan tacos.

Prep time 1 hour 20 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 1 hour

Makes 12 small quesadillas

Serves 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the salsa:

  • 3

    medium roma tomatoes (about 1 pound total)

  • 1/4

    medium white or yellow onion

  • 1

    unpeeled clove garlic

  • 1

    habanero pepper

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup

    water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

For the tortillas and filling:

  • 2 cups

    blue, white, or yellow masa harina (about 7 ounces)

  • 1 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 2 cups

    hot water, plus more as needed

  • 1 pound

    white button or cremini mushrooms

  • 1 bunch

    fresh purslane (verdolagas) (about 6 ounces)

  • 1

    medium roma tomato

  • 1/3

    medium yellow or white onion

  • 1

    peeled clove garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    avocado or vegetable oil, divided, plus more as needed

  • 8 ounces

    shredded regular low-moisture or vegan mozzarella cheese

  • 1 small bunch

    fresh epazote

Instructions

Make the salsa:

  1. Heat a griddle or medium cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place 3 medium roma tomatoes, 1/4 medium white or yellow onion, 1 unpeeled garlic clove, and 1 habanero pepper in the pan. Cook until the bottoms are charred in spots, about 7 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is charred in spots, about 5 minutes more (the garlic may be ready first). Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool slightly.

  2. Peel the charred garlic clove. Trim the stem end of the habanero (for a milder salsa, also remove the seeds).

  3. Place the garlic, 1/2 of the habanero, tomatoes, onion, and 1/4 to 1/3 cup water (depending on how juicy the tomatoes are), and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to a blender. Blend to your desired consistency. Taste and blend in more kosher salt and habanero as needed. (Alternatively, grind the ingredients together in a molcajete.) Transfer the salsa to a serving bowl.

Make the tortillas and filling:

  1. Measure out 2 cups masa harina by spooning it into the measuring cup rather than scooping straight from the bag (or weigh out 6 ounces). Place in a medium, wide bowl. Add 3/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt and stir to combine.

  2. Heat 2 cups water until warm to the touch (about 100ºF). While mixing with a spoon, gradually pour some (you may not need all the water, start with about 1 1/2 cups) into the masa and eventually knead by hand as it comes together. Focus on how the masa feels rather than on the exact measurements, since different varieties of masa harina have different levels of starch and coarseness varies from brand to brand. The masa is ready when it feels soft but doesn’t stick to your hands, the texture similar to play-doh. Test by rolling a small ball of dough between your hands and make an indentation with your finger: if the masa cracks on the edges it needs more water. The success of the masa depends on how well it’s hydrated, so you may use less or more water as needed.

  3. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rest for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

  4. Thinly slice 1 pound white or cremini mushrooms. Trim the bottom woody stems from 1 bunch fresh purslane and remove any withered leaves; cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Thinly slice 1/3 medium white or yellow onion into half-moons. Peel and mince 1 garlic clove. Core and finely chop 1 medium roma tomato.

  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the avocado oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and spread into an even layer. Let cook undisturbed until browned on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir and cook until evenly browned, 3 to 5 minutes more. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt and sauté for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate.

  6. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon avocado oil in the same pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of kosher salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato and 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato cooks down and starts sticking to the pan, about 5 minutes.

  7. Add the purslane and remaining 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook until wilted and darker in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and remove the pan from the heat.

  8. Cut 2 (about 10-inch) square sheets of parchment paper if making round tortillas, or cut 2 (10x16-inch) sheets of parchment paper if making oval. Alternatively, cut a plastic produce bag or large zip top bag in half along the folds to form 2 pieces. Shape the tortillas.

  9. Option 1: Round: Divide and form the masa into 12 (1 1/2-inch wide) walnut-sized balls (3 tablespoons or 1 1/2 ounces each). Place on a work surface and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

  10. If using a tortilla press, line the bottom with one piece of the parchment or plastic. Place a masa ball in the center. If the masa feels dry, just dampen your hands with a bit of water and give the masa ball a gentle roll in your palms before flattening it slightly in the middle of the tortilla press. Cover with the second piece of parchment or plastic. Flatten the tortilla with the press. Rotate the tortilla, still covered, 180 degrees. Press again until about 4 1/2-inches wide and a scant 1/4-inch thick, making sure it is of an even thickness.

  11. If you don’t have a press, sandwich the masa ball between the sheets of parchment or plastic and place on a work surface. Place a large, heavy hardcover book on top and press down to flatten until a scant 1/4-inch thick, making sure it is of an even thickness.

  12. Option 2: Oval (Quesadilla Larga): Grab about 1/2 cup of the masa and form into a ball. Shape it into a 5-inch long rope by rolling it between your hands. Place between the sheets of parchment or plastic. Place on a work surface and flatten the masa down slightly with your hands. Place a large, heavy hardcover book on top and press down to flatten into a rough 4x6-inch oval that’s a scant 1/4-inch thick, making sure it is of an even thickness.

  13. Cook each tortilla as it is shaped (or as many tortillas as can fit in your pan in a single layer): Heat a large griddle or frying pan to medium heat. Remove the top sheet of plastic or paper from the tortilla. Gently flip tortilla-side down onto your dominant hand, then remove the second sheet of plastic or paper. Flip again onto the pan or griddle.

  14. Cook until it slides around easily, 15 to 30 seconds. Flip with your hands or a heatproof spatula and cook until the edges are drier, 30 to 45 seconds. Flip a second time and cook for 30 seconds. During this time the tortilla might puff; if it doesn’t you can gently press on the edges with the spatula to encourage puffing. Flip a third time and cook until browned in spots, about 15 seconds more. Fold the tortilla in half lengthwise.

  15. For round tortillas, transfer to a basket lined with a clean kitchen towel or a tortilla warmer. For oval tortillas, transfer onto a clean kitchen towel. Continue making tortillas, stacking and keeping them wrapped and covered so they steam.

Assemble and cook the quesadillas:

  1. Heat the same griddle or large frying pan to medium heat. Meanwhile, grate 8 ounces mozzarella cheese on the large holes of a box grater if needed (about 2 cups).

  2. Place the tortillas on the griddle or pan (as many as will fit in a single layer). For round tortillas, sprinkle each one with 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 tablespoon mushrooms, heaping 1 tablespoon purslane, and 1 to 2 epazote leaves on one half. For oval tortillas, sprinkle 2 tablespoons cheese, 2 tablespoons mushrooms, heaping 1 tablespoon purslane, and 2 epazote leaves on one half.

  3. Fold the empty half of each tortilla over the filling. Brush the tortillas with a thin layer of avocado oil if desired. Cook until the bottoms of the quesadillas are browned in spots, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip the quesadillas and cook until the second sides are browned and the cheese is melted, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and serve with the salsa.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The mushroom mixture can be cooked up to 3 days ahead. The purslane mixture can be cooked up to 1 day ahead. The salsa can be made up to 10 days ahead. Refrigerate everything in separate airtight containers.

Storage: It’s best to only make as many quesadillas as you can eat at a time. Store leftover tortillas wrapped in a kitchen towel inside a zip top bag at room temperature for up to 4 days. Refrigerate the mushrooms, purslane mixture, and salsa in separate airtight containers.

To reheat, place a tortilla on a warm griddle over medium-low to medium heat and warm on both sides until pliable before filling. Leftover salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Leftover epazote leaves can be refrigerated wrapped in a damp kitchen towel inside an airtight container for up to 1 week.