The Food Matters Project: Beans ‘n Greens (and Potato) Quesadillas

This post is part of the Food Matters Project, a cooking collaboration among participating bloggers. Each week, we will cook a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook, which places an emphasis on mindful and sustainable eating. Follow along with us!

My room as a child was colored mint green. Before my arrival, my parents had decided not to find out whether I would be a “Peter” or a “Bethany,” so they went with a gender neutral green paint color for my nursery. However, the pink butterfly wallpaper suggests to me that they might have had a strong suspicion they were expecting a daughter.

Regardless of their reasoning, I loved the color, perhaps explaining my love for the hue of spring grass and bunches of basil. Yet, years later, when it came time for to choose for myself which color to paint the walls, I wanted a change. That change took my room in a very different direction—an orange direction. No, not a subtle orange like the color of a well-cooked piece of salmon; far from it. Instead, I chose a ridiculous and outrageous shade that made my bedroom appear as if it could glow in the dark when seen through the window.

Now, you may be wondering what my bedroom walls have to do with the Mark Bittman and the Food Matters Project. The connection is actually quite simple. When trying to decide what cookbook item to make for this week’s wild card, I knew I wanted to choose something that appealed to my tastebuds, involved summer produce, was quick and easy and could be made wild. Since many of my friends described my orange bedroom as my capacity to do something crazy and unexpected, I have long considered orange to be representative of the wild.

Yet you still might be asking yourself where Bittman’s food philosophy fits in here. Well, for this week’s wild card, I decided to whip up the cookbook author’s Beans N’ Greens Burrito, but with a wild twist. While sticking with Bittman’s beans and greens base (choosing sauteed spinach and mashed black beans), I roasted up a sweet potato to amp up the color and the nutrition of the dish. The potato amplifies the fiber and other nutrients in the dish, while also making it feel more substantial.

And though I could have just added the potato to the spinach and beans, wrapped it up and called it a day, or a burrito, I went a step further, topping it with cheese and toasting it up as a quesadilla. Beans, greens and sweet potatoes: my mother would be proud.

My variations may stray somewhat far from Bittman’s original recipe, but the idea remains essentially the same. By invoking the colors of my bedroom walls with the spinach greens and the orange sweet potato, and then adding in a healthy dose of protein with the black beans, I created a meal that I have been eating at least twice a week for the last month. It may not fit the definition of wild to a t, but it sure is hearty, satisfying and exuberantly hued. Find out what wild card recipes other bloggers chose at The Food Matters Project.

Bethany Imondi, a rising senior studying Government and English at Georgetown University, is looking forward to having a dishwasher in her kitchen for the first time in three years. Read more…


Beans ‘n Greens (and Potato) Quesadillas
Serves 4
Adapted from the
Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

4 large whole wheat flour tortillas
4 medium sized sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for potatoes
Salt and black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 bunch spinach (about 1 pound), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned black beans, drained, liquid reserved
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Salsa, optional

Heat the oven to 450˚F. Pierce the outer skins of each sweet potato with a fork. Drizzle each with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Wrap each potato in foil and roast in the oven until insides are tender, about 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the spinach. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to color, about 5-10 minutes. Add the spinach and sprinkle with the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it wilts and releases its liquid, about 5 minutes. Add in the black beans; mash them up a bit with a fork or potato masher and add the reserved liquid if the mixture seems dry.

When potatoes are finished let cool about five minutes. Remove skins and mash the insides of the potato. Combine with spinach and bean mixture.

To make the quesadilla, add about a quarter of the potato and greens mixture to one half of each tortilla. Top each with two tablespoons of cheese and fold over the other half of the tortilla.

Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Toast the quesadillas in the hot pan (one at a time depending on the size of your pan) on both sides, until dark and crispy. Serve with salsa on the side, if desired.

Originally posted on Monday, August 6th, 2012

4 Responses to “The Food Matters Project: Beans ‘n Greens (and Potato) Quesadillas”

  1. Margarita

    August 6th, 2012

    this was one of my favorite recipes! i love the use of sweet potatoes!

  2. Lexi

    August 6th, 2012

    Love it!

  3. Philippa

    August 8th, 2012

    Excellent recipe! I added in some sweetcorn as well and my whole family loved it- including my notoriously fussy dad. Thank you very much :)

  4. Megan

    January 3rd, 2013

    Sweet potato Quesadillas – yes please! I bet these would be glorious with a little chopped spinach or kale tossed in too…

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