Zucchini and goat cheese quesadillas stacked closeup vertical 1The DC public library system has hired me to give two cooking demos this fall for Hispanic Heritage Month. As my father’s last name, Bardzik, and my mother’s maiden name, Forgiel, might have let on, it’s unlikely that there is any Hispanic blood flowing through my veins. I got to thinking, what’s a white boy of Polish descent doing talking about salsa and jamón Serrano?

There is a special pride for me in cooking the food of my immigrant relatives, a strong connection to pan fried pierogi and cabbage wrapped golumbki. However, my family, like many in America, discovered tacos on Tuesday nights from a box containing shells and hamburger seasoning. We poured salsa from a jar to top iceberg lettuce, cheddar cheese and chopped tomatoes.

So what business do I have talking about Hispanic heritage? Plenty. The dishes of Central and South America, influenced by the culinary tradition of the Iberian peninsula, influence the salsas, quesadillas and tacos I serve. Spices, from Ancho chile to smoky pimentón, season dishes never intended to be authentic.

Hispanic culinary tradition and modern innovation permeate our diets and many of the dishes we consider so fundamentally American. That is a proud and lasting heritage. And a tasty one too.

Zucchini Ham And Goat Cheese Quesadilla

Serves 6

We tested this dish two ways and loved both. For a different flavor, leave out the ham, swap cumin for the nutmeg and cayenne, cilantro for the parsley and Sherry vinegar for the Champagne.

Zucchini and goat cheese quesadillas stacked tableIngredients

  • 6 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini cut in 1/4” dice, about 4 cups
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Champagne vinegar
  • Cayenne
  • 6-8 6” wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup softened goat cheese


  • Warm 2 tbs olive oil in a 12” skillet over med heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes until softened. Add zucchini and cook 5-7 minutes longer until beginning to brown on edges. Add diced ham and cook 2 minutes longer.
  • Toss with nutmeg and parsley. Season to taste with a splash of vinegar, pinch of cayenne, salt and pepper. Reserve.
  • Assemble quesadillas: layer half of the tortillas with goat cheese and zucchini mixture. Spread remaining tortillas with goat cheese and place on top.
  • Heat 1 tbs oil in a 10” skillet over medium heat. Cook quesadillas, turning once to lightly brown tortillas, about 2-3 minutes per side.

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