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Dinner Tonight: Quick Chicken and Zucchini Quesadillas

Cheesy chicken-and-zucchini quesadillas are a quick and easy weeknight meal. [Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Searching for the absolute epitome of an easy weeknight meal? Look no further than the quesadilla, which requires nothing more than some tortillas and cheese. At its heart, a quesadilla is all about the melted cheese, but that doesn't mean we can't spruce them up, like I did here with zucchini, chicken, and chipotle. The key is to keep the additional ingredients in-check, because nothing should ever outshine that cheese.

Speaking of the cheese, I'm quite partial to the tangy flavor of queso Oaxaca, which is simply called quesillo in that part of Mexico. It's kind of like string cheese that's rolled up into a ball. Try to find it. If you can't, Monterrey Jack will work, though it won't have as much character—just be sure to avoid the pre-shredded variety.

Back to the filling. It's best to keep things simple, so I went with a combination of zucchini and some leftover roast chicken, which I pulled into shreds. (If you don't have any leftover chicken you can quickly cook a couple breasts in the oven, or use store-bought roast chicken.) I sliced the zucchini super thin, then cook it with onions and garlic in a little butter. As it cooks, it becomes sweet and browned, which is a great counterpoint to the spicy and smoky chipotle chilies en adobo I add to the mix.

While most quesadillas in the U.S. are built on large flour tortillas, in Oaxaca they are often made with fresh masa, and end up looking like turnovers. But they can also be made with corn tortillas, which is what I used here. Then, instead of cooking the filled quesadillas in an un-greased skillet, as is traditional, I like to add some butter, which slightly crisps and browns the tortillas.

What to serve with these quesadillas? I can't think of anything better than some of Kenji's great basic guacamole.

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