Potato and kale “Dutch” quesadillas.

At work, stress is a good thing and I do well (I hope) because there are deadlines and because they’re paying me to do stuff and I genuinely feel pleased with myself when I do a good job. It is the exact same feeling I had in the third grade when I aced a spelling test, even though no one ever gives me stickers now and when I am bad I don’t get sent out to the hall to read and think about how I could be nicer to the kids who didn’t get all their words right. Actually, when I am bad now I don’t get any attention at all, which might be the worst punishment there is.

I know I am supposed to do whatever it is I do all day, and sometimes there’s pressure, but on the whole I feel competent and satisfied for completing tasks successfully. Unfortunately, these warm fuzzy feelings do not translate to the rest of my life, and when faced with optional deadlines, things I impose on myself, like an application to grad school, I am a tornado of self-doubt and despair. All of a sudden those short stories and articles and chunks of longer prose that I’ve convinced myself could be a real novel someday are worthless. They are well-edited, but they are crap, I’m sure of it.

These thoughts are short-lived and easily suppressed by food and wine, but being in the middle of them is awful, and after meeting Friday’s deadline, I spent the weekend in recovery, eating and napping and drinking bourbon and wearing stretch fabrics and not doing the dishes.

But we got an extra hour of sleep this weekend, and I’m feeling like a lot like myself again. And it was Meatless Monday, which has become a routine now, so we ate an easy meal and watched three episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and now I’m listening to The Beatles and Lil Wayne, and in just a little while I’ll be in the tub with AJ Liebling and Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris.

I call the meal Dutch Quesadillas, because it’s a weird combination of boerenkool (mashed potatoes and kale) and Gouda and tortillas, all things Nick loves. It’s easy and comes together in about 40 minutes. Great for lunch – you can make them ahead and heat them anytime – or for dinner when you’re a frantic shell of your former self and need an evening of potatoes and cheese to get back on track.

Potato-kale quesadillas

(Serves six.)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large or 4 medium Russet potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups kale, packed, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups grated Gouda (smoked if possible, or cheddar)
  • 6 large flour tortillas

Over medium-high heat, sauté onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until deeply browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil potatoes until fork tender. Stir in chopped kale (I cheated and whizzed mine in the food processor for about 20 seconds) and let cook in the boiling potato water for about three minutes, and drain the whole thing. Mash potatoes with remaining olive oil, garlic, yogurt, nutmeg, cayenne, and salt.

Spread the six tortillas out and divide potatoes evenly. Sprinkle with the cheese, then with the onion, and then fry over medium heat until each side is golden and cheese has melted. Serve with sour cream or yogurt and avocado.

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