It's going to be hard to follow up Cole's amazing basil, tomato, and mozzarella salad recipe from yesterday, but I'll do my best. Books give the reader a sense of a time and place, and food can do the same.
Just as Cole said that food can transport you to a different culture, I think that food has the ability to tell you a lot about a person. I have many memories of being the same age as my little girl and peek-a-booing around my mother's chair to watch her chop the celery for the Thanksgiving stuffing as she told me the how and why she did what she did. Likewise, the smell of chopped bacon and onion frying together in a skillet takes me back to the many nights I made my mom's "bacon spaghetti" for dinner while she and Dad worked long hours and spaghetti was about the only thing my older sister and I could successfully cook at ages 9 and 13. These memories tell you some minute details about me--that I learned a lot from my mom and that I was left to fend for myself quite a bit. And as small as those food-related details might seem, they actually explain a lot about why I am the way I am as an adult.
For me, food is a way for family to spend time together, even families as dysfunctional as the ones I write about. One of my YA characters finds herself in a makeshift family and has to live with her father's best friend, who is Mexican-American. So here's my spin on a Mexican classic, the quesadilla.
Steak & Blue Cheese Quesadillas
2 thin, lean steaks (often called breakfast steaks), cut into strips
1/2 medium-sized white onion, sliced into thin wedges
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 t olive oil
Salt to taste
Blue cheese crumbles
First, cut up your onion, garlic, and bell peppers. Set aside in a small bowl. I used some marinated roasted peppers that I had in a jar, but fresh peppers work equally well.
Next, slice your steaks into thin strips.
In a skillet over medium to medium-high heat, add your olive oil and, once that's warmed, add the strips of steak. You want the heat to be high enough to get a quick sear on the meat. It's thin enough that you don't need to cook it for more than a few minutes. Then add the peppers, garlic, and onion. Cook until heated but still crisp. Lastly, add the cumin, chili powder, and salt. I add these last to avoid burning the spices. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat a second skillet (or even a griddle pan) over low to medium-low heat. Place a tortilla into the pan. Sprinkle one half of the tortilla with blue cheese crumbles.
Then add some of the steak and vegetable mixture, topping with more blue cheese.
Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the steak, vegetable, and cheese mix.
Flip. Heat just until the cheese melts.
Rest on a cutting board before using a pizza slicer to cut into wedges. This usually makes 3-4 quesadillas for my family.