Quesadillas, Pico de Gallo recipes and family memories


Caleb Johnson

Quesadillas and Pico de Gallo are apart of Mexican cuisine and were seen as a treat in Caleb Johnson’s, senior lifestyle writer, family. (Caleb Johnson | Northern Star)

By Caleb Johnson, Lifestyle Writer

From the heart of Mexico comes a stunning and delicious meal. Inspired by my family’s rich cultural traditions, here’s a modern take on classic recipes.

Quesadillas often consist of melted cheese inside a tortilla and have been made in Mexico since colonial times. They’ve been a staple in Mexican cuisine for centuries. 

I will be sharing a slight variety, known as quesadillas fritas, in which the quesadilla is lightly fried in oil. Traditionally, quesadillas are prepared with a comal, similar to a cast iron skillet but a little flatter and then heated until the cheese is melted. 

Quesadillas were always considered to be a treat in my family. I remember being in the kitchen with my mother, who learned from her mother, as she showed me how to prepare them. I remember she would also sing, in Spanish and English, as the smell of melted cheese filled the air.

As I got older, I would experiment with different cheeses and fillings with my sisters, laughing and comparing different combinations. Once I tried putting lettuce, seasonings and beans in the tortilla and my youngest sister spit it out. We all had a good time. 

Pico de gallo, also known as salsa fresca, is a salsa recipe that has been used in Mexican cuisine for generations. It is known for its bold colors and its main ingredients include tomatoes, onion and green peppers – the colors of the Mexican flag. 

My family would make this every year in the summer and my auntie would show me how to cut it and remove the seeds from the peppers. My whole family would pitch in and we each helped with a different dish. Pico de gallo was always my favorite because of the colors. 

Quesadillas are easy to prepare and can be made with relatively few ingredients. This meal is perfect for parties and can be enjoyed by anyone looking for a taste of Mexican cuisine. 


Cooking time: 3 minutes per quesadilla. 

Serves 5 to 7 people. 


Corn or flour tortillas (10 count, 8 inches) 

Queso Chihuahua or Queso Fresco (10 ounces, about 1 ounce per quesadilla) 


Substitute cheese for one of your choice (1 ounce per quesadilla) 

Chili powder (a pinch)

Meat of your choice (12 ounces, about 1.2 ounces per quesadilla)

Sour Cream (1 teaspoon per quesadilla)

Lightly coat a medium saucepan with oil and place over medium heat. When hot, place the tortilla on a pan and heat both sides for 30 seconds. 

Then take your cheese, either Queso Chihuahua or Queso Fresco, and lightly sprinkle half an ounce on the tortilla. Let the cheese melt. After the cheese melts, put the remaining cheese in the quesadilla. 

Optional: put 1.2 ounces of cooked meat in the quesadilla and sprinkle with chili powder. After the ingredients are placed, fold the quesadilla in half with a spatula. Flip the quesadilla, making sure to melt the cheese and brown the edges slightly, gently pushing with the spatula. 

Each side should take about 35 seconds. When done, pat down gently with a paper towel to remove excess oil. Put it on a plate and enjoy. If you want, top with a teaspoon of sour cream. 


Prep. time: 5 min. 

Serves 7 to 9 people. 


Ripe Roma tomatoes (1.5 pounds, around 5 to 7 tomatoes) 

Onions (4 to 5 medium onions, white or red) 

Serrano pepper (6 to 7 peppers) 

Fresh cilantro (½  a pound) 

Two limes or 4 tablespoons of lime juice

Two pinches of salt

Optional: substitute serrano pepper for jalapeño, habanero or bell peppers depending on how spicy you want your pico de gallo to be. 

On a flat surface, remove the seeds and core of the tomatoes and on a separate surface, remove the seeds and core of the serrano pepper, using your hands or a small knife. On a cutting board, dice the tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro, then place them in a large bowl. Once in a bowl, add lime juice and salt. Mix ingredients thoroughly. After mixing, let sit in the fridge for 30 min. Serve and enjoy.