When I cooked and photographed this meal for this post, I used a white cutting board to show off the quesadillas and hot sauce. When my husband was cleaning the dishes after dinner, he said to me “that sauce you used left a mark on your cutting board,” to which I responded “yeah, carrots can sometimes do that,” to which he replied, “no, the sauce you used left a mark,” to which I responded “right, that’s the carrots,” to which he then said “no, the hot sauce in the corner,” to which I then said/screamed “YES THAT IS THE CARROTS,” and so it went for several more agonizing exchanges until I made him understand that the hot sauce was, in fact, made from carrots.
My love for a good condiment is very.well.documented. Like very well documented. I just think a lot of food benefits GREATLY from a really good sauce. I mean I’m not one to just throw soy sauce or tabasco or ketchup on any ol’ food I have on my plate, I prefer something a bit more thoughtful, as it were. A perfectly balanced pesto or a just-spicy-enough chili sauce go a long, long way with Katie Rose.
I’m not positive when I began thinking of using carrots as the base for a hot sauce, but once I started turning it over in my mind, I couldn’t get it out of my system, and my new fave hot sauce was born. This sauce is surprising in a lot of ways: obviously, you’ve got the carrot base going on, which is a little different from the standard tomato, tomatillo or chili base, but there’s more! The natural sweetness of the carrot really shines once it’s roasted and also means you don’t have to determine the perfect amount of sugar or honey or agave to incorporate into the sauce, because good ol’ Mother Nature has provided that perfect balance all on her own (snaps for Mother Nature).
Next, you’ve got the chipotle, which is smoky and rich and complex and all-around wonderful, and when that – decidedly savory – vibe meets with the natural sweetness of the carrot and gets combined with roasted garlic and onions and a bright hit of lime juice and ground cumin, you’re lookin’ at somethin’ really special, folks.
To conclude: the hot sauce is forkin’ great, but my Charred Veggie Quesadillas are not to be undersold! Roasting the veggies instead of sautéing them allows them to develop more flavor by adding char and releasing their natural juices, and cooking the quesadillas in spicy brown butter (emphasis intentional) really takes these babies to the next level. All in all, this meal is a winner. How’s how I make it:
Charred Veggie Quesadillas With Roasted Carrot & Chipotle Hot Sauce
For the Hot Sauce
- 4 carrots peeled
- 1 white or yellow onion roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 can chipotle peppers in their juice
- 1 lime
- olive oil
For the Quesadillas
- 2 bell peppers sliced and cored
- 1 white or yellow onion peeled and sliced
- 2 tbsp taco spices or a taco seasoning packet I use a homemade mix of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and oregano
- olive oil
- 8 flour tortillas
- 3-4 tbsp butter
- chili powder optional
- 16 ounces shredded cheese I prefer cheddar and/or pepperjack
For the Hot Sauce
Begin by preheating your oven to 180FAN or 400 degreed Fahrenheit.
While the oven gets hot, prep your carrots and onion by chopping them into uniform-sized pieces, about one inch chunks.
On a baking sheet, toss the carrot, onion and garlic cloves with a generous amount of olive oil as well as the salt and paprika.
Roast the vegetables until they are deeply charred and very tender, about 35 minutes. If they aren't deeply charred after 35 minutes, leave them in the oven until they are well-roasted.
When they're finished roasting, scrape them into a blender (with the olive oil and juices on the pan) and add the chipotle: I like spice, so I add 3 whole peppers and 2 tbsp of juice. If you want a milder sauce, start with less and add more if necessary.
Add the juice of a lime and about 1/4 cup of olive oil and blend. From here, if the mixture is still pretty thick, add more olive oil until the mixture is loose enough to blend. I usually end up adding 1/2 cup olive oil total to get to my preferred consistency, which is thick and not at all runny. If you prefer a thinner sauce, continue adding olive oil and/or lime juice to achieve your desired constistency. If you add much more olive oil, remember to taste and add more salt or cumin, if necessary.
This will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for about 10 days, though mine never lasts that long. I always serve it at room temperature.
For the Quesadillas
Preheat your oven to 180FAN (400 degrees Fahrenheit).
While your oven heats up, prepare your veggies by coating them in your taco seasoning and olive oil. Pop them on a baking tray and roast them until they're charred on the edges and fork tender, about 20-25 minutes.
When your veggies are almost done roasting, heat a non stick or cast iron skiller over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp of butter to the skillet. Allow the butter to melt completely and begin to form small bubbles before moving to the next step. The butter should take about 5 minutes to reach this stage. It will be slightly golden in color and just fragrant (it will smell rich and a bit nutty, yum!) At this point, I add a few dashes of chili powder to the butter to give it even more richness and depth of flavor; plus, the color it lends the tortillas is perfection.
Place a tortilla into the buttered pan and add enough cheese to cover the tortilla. Add your veggies on top of the cheese, taking care to evenly distribute them. Cover the top with another tortilla and press the top tortilla down to secure it.
Cook the quesadilla about 3 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and the underside of the quesadilla is browned. Using a spatula, carefully flip the quesadilla over and cook the other side until it's browned as well. Note: The temperature of a pan increases a bit as we use it so, at this point, check if you need to turn the heat down under your pan to avoid burning the butter.
Add more butter to the pan, if necessary. and repeat the process with the remaining quesadillas and serve hot, with the hot sauce.