“I just want to sit and learn with someone’s grandma,” says Sherie Grillon, chef and founder of Nola’s Fresh Foods, a salsa company based in Boston. “Culinary school never interested me.” Sherie grew up in a half Italian, all Southern family in New Orleans where she was always surrounded by food and family, cooking pasta with homegrown tomatoes and oregano, and a little bit of love. “That’s at the heart for me. It’s about family, it’s about food… a perfect day is having people around me that I love.”
Her company is named after her hometown, where she first learned to cook. Sherie started waiting tables in high school, and once she moved to Texas for college, she started cooking with chefs and fell in love with Mexican cuisine. She would slowly fire-roast tomatoes with jalapeños, and marvel at how a small change from oregano to jalapeño meant a huge change in taste and culture. After seven years of cooking Mexican food in Texas, Sherie moved to Boston and created her first recipe for a salsa fresca, a staple on every Mexican table.
Nola’s Fresh Foods sells Sherie’s Salsa Fresca and a Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa at Whole Foods and Star Market, both made with fresh ingredients, no preservatives, and no added sugar or oils. Both are also vegan and gluten free. Since Cinco de Mayo is this week, I thought I’d pick up one of each to go with a veggie quesadilla. Nola’s has lots of recipes on their website, and I used their recipe for a vegan sweet potato, kale and mushroom quesadilla. I used real cheddar cheese from Narragansett Creamery because it is delicious and there are no vegans in my house!
You can also easily substitute ingredients based on the season, too. Right now sweet potatoes are still being sold at farmers markets, and their sweetness pairs perfectly with the tang of vinegar, but zucchini squash would be a great substitute in the summer. As for Cinco de Mayo, I’m making a quesadilla, chile lime chicken, beans and rice, and a big bowl of blue corn ships and salsa fresca.
Roasted Sweet Potato, Kale, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadilla
Total time: 35 minutes
Makes 3 large quesadilla
In My Basket
2 1/4 cups Kale (from Oakdale Farms, Rehoboth MA)
2 medium Sweet Potatoes (from Oakdale Farms, Rehoboth MA)
1/2 cup Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa (from Nola’s Fresh Foods, Dorchester MA)
1 cup Cheddar Cheese (from Narragansett Creamery, Providence RI)
From the Pantry
6 Large Flour Tortillas
1/2 cup Mushrooms
4 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400° degrees. Wash, peel and small dice the sweet potatoes. Toss the sweet potatoes in 2 tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Spread sweet potatoes on a baking dish and roast for 20 minutes or until tender.
While the potatoes roast, wash and roughly chop the kale and mushrooms. Grate the cheddar cheese.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet, sauté the sweet potatoes, mushrooms, kale and Nola’s Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa until kale is wilted, approximately 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from the pan, set aside. Wipe out the pan.
Heat the skillet over medium heat and place 1 tortilla in pan. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the tortilla, then scoop some of the veggie mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle some more cheese over the veggies, and top with a second tortilla. Cook until golden on both sides, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove quesadilla from pan, and repeat with remaining ingredients.
Cut each quesadilla into 8 triangles with a pizza cutter. Serve hot with guacamole, Nola’s Salsa Fresca, and Sour Cream. Enjoy!
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.