Friday, April 4, 2014

Petty Cash's Zucchini Quesadilla with Spicy Salsa Rioja

Food and Wine's Version 
As I was working my way through last month’s Food and Wine, I came to an overhead shot of a crispy, toasted tortilla topped with bright red chiles and cilantro leaves.  I was taken with the photo and I was consumed by the recipe. It’s vegetarian so perfect for those meatless meals I am trying to achieve at least once a week.  And I love a great Quesadilla, with the cheese oozing out the sides of the tortilla and filled inside with any number of meaty ingredients like a tinga of puerco, pollo or carne.  This Quesadilla has none of those.  Instead it’s filled with a smoky flavored salsa made with roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic, thin slices of zucchini and as much Monterrey Jack cheese as you can stuff into it.  It’s pure Mexican street food but it was invented in a place that’s about un-Mexican as anywhere in Los Angeles CA. It’s on Beverly Boulevard between Beverly Hills and Hancock Park.
Chef Walter Manzke Of Petty Cash LA
 Chef Walter Manzke has been involved with food since his childhood in San Diego but it was in neighboring Tijuana that he got much of his inspiration for Petty Cash, which is referred to on their own website as a 'semi-authentic taqueria'      ( With his partner Bill Chait and a whole kitchen full of authentic Mexican cooks, Chef Manzke has created a menu of classic Mexican street food with a California twist. Everything is local, seasonal and sustainable.
Petty Cash's Interior 
  The place itself is a treat:  Hand painted murals—even some graffiti done by the kitchen staff—cover the walls.  The dining area surrounds the bar with communal picnic tables and benches. There’s even a back room with shuffleboard. The name of the place, Petty Cash sounds like a fairly obvious sign that this is wallet-friendly food.  In fact, the taqueria takes its name not from the cash drawer but a cover band of the same name that confines their performances entirely to Johnny Cash and Tom Petty covers.  
Don’t ask me why, because I could not find an answer. The Chef must just enjoy the band.  Petty Cash is at 7360 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90036. You can make reservations on        
The Blender is best reserved for
the Margaritas recommended to be served
with your Quesadilla. 
On the other hand, you could just stay home and produce Petty Cash’s Zucchini Quesadilla all by yourself.  First you roast some tomatoes, garlic and an onion under the broiler.  I cheated a bit here because I had an opened container of Pomi Tomatoes and since the dish goes right into the blender, I saw no reason not to use them. When the tomato season arrives however, I’d go with the real deal and broil those instead.  As to the chiles, arbols are easy to find, Fresno chiles not so easy,  but if you have trouble, substitute the ubiquitous jalapeno.  Also, the cooking instructions recommended using a blender to make the Rioja Salsa.  I wish my blender had come through on this one but I would substitute a Cuisinart in a second.  A blender is perfectly fine for pureeing but in this case there are 6 fairly woody chiles that it has to grind up.  Mine just didn’t do it right.  So I ended up with two things to clean: A blender and a Cuisinart.  The rest of it is a snap.  Just slice your zucchini about 1/8 inch thick, put the slices on a tortilla that’s in the cooking pan and cover that with lots of cheese. Spread the red salsa on the other tortilla, and top that with the salsa covered one.  The recipe called for cast iron. I was making two of these and wanted to cook them at the same time so I used two non-stick skillets.  The dish emerged from them perfectly browned.  And here is the recipe.

Recipe for Petty Cash’s Zucchini Quesadilla with Spicy Salsa Rioja.      
Active Time: 20 minutes. Total Time: 45 Minutes. Makes 2 10 inch Quesadillas.

1 pound tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup canola oil
6 dried árbol chiles, stemmed
1 chipotle chile in adobo
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt sprinkled over cheese and salsa rioja
Two 10-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 small zucchinis, thinly sliced crosswise
Chopped cilantro and thinly sliced Fresno chiles, for garnish 
Preheat the broiler. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes, onion and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Broil 6 inches from the heat for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes and onion are softened and nicely charred.

In a skillet, toast the árbol chiles over moderately low heat, stirring, until lightly charred, 3 minutes; transfer to a blender. Add the broiled tomatoes, onion and garlic along with the chipotle chile, vinegar and sugar and puree until smooth. Season the salsa roja with salt.
In a cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place one tortilla in the skillet and place the zucchini on top evenly. Top the zucchini with half the cheese.  Brush half the the salsa roja  over the second tortilla. Cook over moderately high heat until crisp on the bottom, 3 minutes. 

Flip the quesadilla, adding the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil, and cook until the cheese is melted, 2 minutes. Repeat this process to make the second Quesadilla or cook them in two skillets at the same time.  Slice the quesadilla into wedges, transfer to a plate, garnish with the cilantro and Fresno chiles and serve.

1 comment:

  1. Yesterday, this was made for Edward with corn tortillas and less heat. Tuesday belongs to Moi'! Off to the Tortilleria, need the turbo size flour tortillas. It is going to be 80 degrees today, and this is quick, easy and requires no oven heat. Thanks Monte! And yes, Edward thought they were very tasty, whoot hoot!