The first Jews of Mexico arrived with the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes in 1521. These Jews were Conversos or crypto-Jews, so called because they were forced by the Spanish Inquisition to become Catholic and had to practice their Jewish faith in secret. It is estimated that by the middle of the 1600s there were more crypto-Jews than Spanish Catholic in Mexico City. Over time, most of these Conversos and their descendants became faithful Catholics, though many continued to light candles on Friday night and keep their milk and meat foods separate.
Most of the Jews in Mexico today are descendants of Jews who immigrated from Eastern Europe beginning in the mid-1800s, as well as Sephardic Jews who left the fallen Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I and German and other European Jews who fled Nazi- occupied Europe in the 1930s.
Children love these “grilled cheese” treats all year round but they can be served at the Jewish New Year symbolizing “sealing” our hopes for the coming year or for Hanukkah, remembering the Heroism of Judith who saved her community from annihilation by feeding salty cheese and wine to Holofernes so that he would be too drunk to lead his army (this is a more child-friendly version of the story with the same successful ending).
5 large flour tortillas
2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces grated Chihuahua cheese, mozzarella cheese or cheddar cheese
Any leftover cooked vegetables, like mushrooms, onions, or broccoli (optional)
Any small pieces of fresh fruit, like mango, apple, peaches or grapes cut in half (optional)
Salsa or sour cream for dipping (optional)
- Spread out the tortillas on a cutting board, and divide the cheese evenly over the bottom half of each tortilla, leaving a 1⁄2-inch rim around the bottom. Top with vegetables, if desired.
- Fold the tortillas in half; brush the tops with some of the oil.
- heat a large griddle or 10-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat for 15 seconds. Place a few of the quesadillas, oiled side down, on the griddle. Brush the tops of the cooking quesadillas with some oil.
- Cook until the bottom is golden. Using a large turner, flip the quesadilla over, and cook the other side until golden and crisp. Remove to the cutting board, and cook the remaining filled tortillas.
- Using a chef ’s knife, cut each tortilla into thirds or fourths, and serve plain or with salsa and/or sour cream.
Note: Fresh diced fruit or cooked vegetables can be added to the cheese before folding and frying for a more substantial filling.