Friday Recipes: David’s All-Star Quesadillas and Salsa

June 12, 2009

By Cynthia San Miguel, HSC Intern

This post is part of our Friday-morning series on fun, healthy recipes. Check out other recipe posts here.

David-and-Sam David Blackmon has been the career cluster manager of the hospitality and culinary arts program at Chicago Public Schools for two years. This program includes 2,100 students and 31 teachers in 19 schools. The high school culinary students in the program are able to participate in HSC’s Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest in which teams of students create a healthy school meal that exceeds the USDA nutrition standards with a limited budget that is comparable to that of a school food service director. The meals are judged on nutritional value, presentation and taste. The winning meal in the 2008 contest was served to more than 40,000 high school students across the US.

Blackmon joined the winners of the 2008 contest — culinary instructors Mark Soltis and Katy Walsh and students from Richards Career Academy – on a recent trip to Washington DC, where the students cooked with White House Chef Sam Kass at a briefing about the future of school food while their meal was served at the House of Representatives cafeteria.

How did you get involved with culinary arts and hospitality at CPS?
I’ve been a professional chef for twenty-one years. In 2004, I discovered the program and was asked to come in and talk to the students. In 2007, when I had a restaurant I employed thirty CPS culinary arts and hospitality students at the Taste of Chicago. I also share my experience and stories with the students.

What do you hope students learn from the culinary arts and hospitality program?
In our program we want to get the kids work-ready and life-ready. They learn time management, setting priorities, resume writing and networking. We help the students realize their true worth.  Students also receive a food manager certification which makes them employable. It’s good to know that you have a career path, one that will be there or one that you will fall back on.

What have you learned about the students who compete in the Cooking up Change event?
It’s the second year I’ve done Cooking up Change. I have never seen the students so proud. They see the people trying what they made and that is the rush that most professional top chefs like to get.

What was your favorite part about the trip to Washington, DC?

The White House. The kids and teachers were blown away by the size of the kitchen. The White House and Richards [high school] have the same kitchen equipment. And meeting the dog was cool.

What is your dream for school lunches?
That they will do something like fresh variety and provide energy-giving food. Fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and smoothies. 

What is your favorite food?

With the warmer weather, anything grilled on a stick.

Who have you cooked for?
I have cooked for Obama [when he was running for state legislator], Janet Jackson, M.C.  Hammer, Nelson Mandela, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf [Liberia’s first female president] and was a personal chef to Scottie Pippen. I have also cooked for a number of Senators and politicians. It humbled me.

Who is your favorite chef?
Roy Yamaguchi and Rick Bayless. Yamaguchi has sixty restaurants. Bayless because of the way he runs his empire and he treats his workers like family. I aspire to become like him.

Black Bean and Vegetable Quesadillas

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, shredded
3 cups baby spinach, chopped 
½ cup southwestern style frozen corn, thawed
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt & pepper to taste
10 whole wheat tortillas (10 inches)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
½ cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Mix first seven ingredients together in a bowl. Spoon bean mixture onto half of each tortilla; sprinkle with cheese. Fold tortilla over filling. Lightly spray outside of tortilla with cooking spray and place in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook until cheese melts and outside is crispy. Cut quesadilla into wedges (like pizza) and serve on a plate. Spoon salsa over the wedges and garnish with yogurt sauce and cilantro.

Quick Salsa

8 Plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 Red Onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of one lime
Kosher salt to taste

Mix well in a bowl. Allow flavors to mellow together at least 4 hours.

Enjoy!