regarding enchiladas

Stay tuned for another long, seemingly complicated recipe. Writing it out has left me totally exhausted with hardly an ounce of wit or storytelling leftover. Worth the trouble though, these enchiladas were spectacular: light and delicate, with complex, spicy flavor. A really nice take on a dish that can often be made with a very heavy hand. Enchiladas are the lasagna of summer.

Though this recipe is worth the time, I’d like to offer an enchilada redux: make a mexican flavored tomato sauce, fresh or otherwise. Saute some vegetables and/or beans. Shred a bunch of cheese. Heat the sauce, dip the tortillas, put the filling in with cheese, roll, cover the completed enchiladas with more sauce and cheese, bake.

This recipe calls for roasted vegetables, which is hard for me since I’m afraid of my broiler. Ever since I was a kid I have been really scared of fires and smoke detectors sounding their alarms. Surprisingly, I haven’t been completely terrorized by the time our house actually did catch on fire, though it did renew my smoke detector terror. If you are brave, this is a perfect time to use your broiler (which almost certainly won’t catch on fire). Another option is to roast in your oven on 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until edges are brown and the juices have caramelized on the pan). And of course, there’s always the grill. As you can see from the opening picture, I chose to dry roast the onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers in a frying pan. This took forever — use one of the other methods.

Also, like many Susan Spicer recipes, this is long and complicated but really good. Make the sauce a day ahead, and the rest of the recipe is fairly straightforward.

Vegetable Enchiladas with Roasted Tomato Sauce (adapted from Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking)
serves 4-5

for the sauce
1 poblano pepper
1-2 jalapeno peppers
1 onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
6 fresh, ripe, medium sized tomatoes
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

for the filling
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 portobello mushrooms, quickly wiped or rinsed, stems removed, and cut into long 1/2″ wide lengths
1/2 teaspoon crushed cumin
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
2 medium zucchini, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
10-12 corn tortillas
2 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack or cheddar
onion, jalapeno, or fresh herbs for garnish

Roast the whole peppers, chopped onion, skin-on garlic, and tomatoes according to your preferred roasting method. Set the peppers aside and when they’re cool pull out stem and rinse out the seeds. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery skin. Throw all of the vegetables into the bowl of food processor and give it a few pulses, until things are combined but not pureed. Set the sauce aside, or, if you are making the day ahead, cover and refrigerate.

Next you’ll need to cook the enchilada filling. Drizzle some olive oil in a pan and saute the peppers and onion until tender; remove from pan. Add a little more olive oil and saute the mushrooms with the cumin until the mushrooms are soft and start to release their water; remove from pan. Add a little more oil and saute the zucchini until tender but not mushy; remove from pan. Put the cooked vegetables into a big bowl and gently mix, adding the oregano, cilantro, and scallions.

Now it’s time to make the enchiladas. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using the same frying pan as before, add a little olive oil and heat 1/3 of the enchilada sauce. To assemble, dip the tortilla into the heated sauce until it is tender and pliable (about 30 seconds). Use tongs so you don’t burn your fingers. Then put 1/4 cup of vegetable filling and a sprinkle of cheese into the softened tortilla. Roll and place in rectangular baking pan seam side down. Repeat until the pan is full and the filling is gone. Cover with sauce, more cheese, and the optional garnish, and cook until cheese is melted and everything is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately, although this dish might be even better the day after due to delicious flavor meld.


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