After having arrived in Toronto I continued my travels through Canada via Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City. But then I decided it was time to try to go a bit off the standard big-city tour. As much as I like cities, I did feel like the nature and the smaller towns and villages in Canada would give me a better knowledge of the country.
So I took the bus up to Tadoussac. A small town, a bit northeast of Quebec City. In the summer it´s busy with people visiting for the whale watching tours. During winter, some people go there on snowmobile trips but it is much more quiet. The town itself has some pretty wooden houses, and the bay is beautiful, surrounded by hills with plenty of opportunities for snowshoeing. There is one hostel in Tadoussac. This is not your regular hostel but almost a small community. It is very chilled out, there are no locks to be found anywhere else than on the bathrooms and if you want you can have dinner with the people who live there as volunteers. And not just any dinner. The day before I arrived, a large group of people on snowmobiles had apparently visited the hostel and they had a big dinner. From what was left over of the meat of that evening we had a stew when I was there: including seal meat! There really is a first time for everything. And of course I know: poor seals…
After leaving Tadoussac I went a bit further up the coast, to Sept-Iles. Here it seemed like the houses were trying to play hide-and-seek behind the big piles of snow separating them from the street. I don´t think I´ve ever seen that much snow, but while I was there another snowstorm brought even more of it. Since not far after this town the normal road stops, I was forced to go down again. Regardless of many people advising me not to travel during winter (too cold, places are closed, etc) I rented a car to discover the Gaspésie peninsula. And yes, maybe it is the wrong time of the year to travel. On the day I was supposed to return my rental car I was completely stuck in the hostel due to a snowstorm, apparently one of the largest blizzards in Québec in a long time. In many places I have felt like I might have been the only foreigner there at that moment. The only other people in the hostels are usually Canadians, that have to be there for work. In the hostel I staid in Gaspé most of the other people were men that worked on placing the cables for fiber internet. But then again, the people are very friendly and helpful. And when you´re standing at a beautiful spot in nature, in complete silence, with the contrast between the white snow and the blue sky, it is just magical. So for now I´ll take the cold and the added difficulty of winter travel gladly for granted. But the cold temperatures, I think the coldest it has been for me was a real temperature of -25°C that felt like -35°C, and the hikes in the snow do make me hungry. And when I´m not in a place where they cook you dinner, I do feel like making something easy and comforting. And in the end, what is more comforting than molten cheese?
Of course, there are many different possibilities for quesadilla fillings. When traveling, I usually make those two vegetarian fillings since the ingredients are not too expensive and they are easy to make.
If you happen to have all the spices mentioned below, great! That would always be the prefered situation. But the last time I made those quesadillas I realized the only thing for free in the kitchen was salt. No oil, no herbs, no spices. Unfortunately I discovered this a bit too late: somewhere around 8 pm in a place in a national park, where the nearest grocery store was some 15 km away. But without anything, it still worked out fine.
Ingredients (for 6 quesadillas)
- 12 tortillas
- A cheese that melts easily, like cheddar – 150 grams
- Olive oil
- Mushrooms – 200 grams
- 1 small onion
- 2 tomatoes
- Cilantro – a good bunch
Spicy bean filling:
- Black beans or kidney beans – 1 can
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 dried chilli
- Cumin – 3 heaped teaspoons
- Cinnamon – 2 heaped teaspoons
- Oregano – 3 heaped teaspoons
If you are making both types of fillings, start by preparing the spicy bean filling. Finely chop the onion and tomato and mince the garlic. Add a dash of olive oil to a small pot and place this over medium fire. Cook the onion until it´s soft, and add the garlic. Also mix in the chilli, cumin, and cinnamon. When the garlic is fragrant, add the chopped tomato and a good pinch of salt. Mix it through well before adding the beans and the oregano. Poor in a quarter of a glass of water. If you have it, you can add a splash of beer as well. Leave this to simmer over a medium to high heat. When the beans are soft, this usually takes some 10 minutes, mash most of them using a fork. Turn the fire down to low and leave the beans mixture on the stove while stirring now and then, until all the liquid has evaporated. And of course, check in between to see if you need any adjustments to the flavouring.
Meanwhile, chop the rest of the onion and the tomato for the mushroom filling. Also chop the mushrooms in quarters and cut the cilantro. Place a frying pan, of the size in which the tortillas will fit later, over a medium hot fire with a bit of olive oil. Fry the onion until soft, and add the mushrooms, the tomato, half of the cilantro, and a pinch of salt. Fry this for about 7 to 10 minutes while stirring regularly.
While the both fillings are cooking, grate your cheese. When the mushrooms are ready, take them out of the pan and set aside. Clean the frying pan and place it over a medium fire, without any oil. Now the time has come to start assembling the quesadillas. Place one tortilla on a chopping board. Add an even layer of the mushroom filling (not too much). Just leave the edges free. Spread some cheese over it as well and some of the remaining cilantro. Place another tortilla on top, and transfer this to the frying pan. Fry for around 3 minutes, or until the tortilla that is on the bottom is golden and crispy. Then carefully flip it over and fry on the other side as well. When ready, take it out of the pan and divide in quarters. Repeat the same process, so spread out one of the fillings evenly over a tortilla, top with cheese and another tortilla, and fry in the dry pan on both sides until golden brown. Continue until both fillings are finished.
Of course, if you want to you can make a complete feast out of it by serving the quesadillas with sides like guacamole, sour cream, salsas, etc. In any case, enjoy!