It took a Californian to serve this New Yorker her first truly great quesadilla. Up to that time, the Mexican food scene in New York was dominated by overstuffed burritos and fajitas made with mediocre ingredients. Whenever you found quesadillas, they oozed more cheese than a slice of fast-food pizza.

Then friends in Los Angeles insisted I try the corn and spinach quesadilla at a now defunct eatery in Santa Monica. The chef was utterly devoted to making his Mexican offerings deliciously interesting as well as sensible. This meant using just the right amount of creamy Jack cheese to hold together lightly sauteed spinach, fresh corn kernels and grilled onion, all neatly sandwiched between two tortillas. The result was a light quesadilla with a satisfying succession of warm crunch, rich cheese and tender vegetables.

Californians are veggie-mad, so the fresh spinach in this quesadilla came as no surprise. The thick, firm slices of onion, seared in a dry pan until golden and caramelized, were more unusual. But the corn was a show-stopper: fresh kernels sliced from an ear picked that morning so they were sugar-sweet and oozing their milk.

Most of the year, few of us have access to such fresh produce or the kind of time it takes to grill onions carefully and keep them from charring. But try your hand at it now, while locally grown corn and spinach (and maybe the onions too) are available, and you'll eat like a prince, or at least a pampered Californian.

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And even after summer's over, you can make this quesadilla with frozen corn (white, if you can get it, please) and sauteed onions, and it'll still be pretty darn good. Cut it into 8 wedges for a great hors d'oeuvre.

Spinach and Corn Quesadilla

Adapted from the 12 Best Foods Cookbook


  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and cut in thin rounds
  • 1 bunch spinach, stemmed, with leaves cut in 1" ribbons, or one package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1/2 cup white corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • Two 10" whole-wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup (3 oz.) shredded Jack cheese
  • Cooking spray (or 1/2 tsp. canola or light olive oil)


  1. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and jalapeno and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the spinach, stirring until it wilts. Add corn and cook, stirring, until the corn is warmed through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Wipe out the pan.
  2. Coat a tortilla with cooking spray or brush it lightly with 1/4 teaspoon of oil. Place it, sprayed/brushed side down, on a plate. Sprinkle half the cheese over the tortilla. Spread the spinach mixture over the cheese, leaving a half-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle on the onions. Top with the remaining cheese. Spray the second tortilla, or brush one side with oil and place it, coated side up, to cover the filling.
  3. Return the skillet to the heat. When hot, slide the quesadilla into the skillet. Cook until it the bottom tortilla is crisp and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the quesadilla by first sliding it onto the plate and inverting a second plate over it. Flip the plates while pressing them firmly together.
  4. Slide the quesadilla, uncooked side down, back into the pan, and cook the second side until crisp. On a plate, cut the quesadilla into 8 wedges. Serve immediately, accompanied by your favorite salsa.

Nutritional Information Per Wedge:

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90 calories
5 g. total fat
2 g. saturated fat
9 g. carbohydrate
5 g. protein
2 g. dietary fiber
126 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1/2 Bread/Starch, 1 Fat, 1 Vegetable