Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Sauce
Makes 6 enchiladas

A friend of mine, who lives part-time in Mexico, said being a vegetarian is not easy there. It’s true. Mexican food tends to be heavy on the meat. But with some creativity, it doesn’t have to be. This recipe, from the vegan Mexican website Dora’s Table, uses spinach and mushrooms as a filling. Believe me, you won’t miss the meat! The enchiladas are also topped with a sauce of exquisite depth, complexity and sophistication. I think Dora should bottle this sauce and sell it. And if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on other dishes like fish, chicken or eggs.

Of course, I have changed the recipe and put my own Doña Tina’s take on it. Enchiladas can be a bit of work, but these are fairly easy to make and a restaurant-quality addition to you dinner table.

Ancho chiles, used in the sauce, are the dried form of poblano chiles, the large dark-green variety used to make chiles rellenos. Ancho chiles can be found in supermarkets  and in the bulk section of natural foods stores. Unsalted, roasted peanuts can be found as “peanut butter stock” in the bulk section of grocery stores.

Since money isn’t spent on packaging, buying from the bulk bins reduces your grocery bill. There is also less waste to end up in landfills, and that’s a good thing! Using reusable cloth bags for bulk items is even better.

Buen Provecho! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Sauce
4 ancho chiles
1–2 chipotle peppers in adobo
2 cloves garlic
1 plum tomato
1 cup roasted peanuts
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup vegetable broth

The Filling
8 oz cremini mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz fresh spinach
6 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated
canola oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roast tomato on a baking sheet until it is soft and the skin is spilt and blistered, about 25 minutes. While the tomato is roasting, prep the other ingredients. When tomato is done, remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Remove seeds and stems from ancho chiles. In a medium-sized pot, bring water to a boil then add chiles to boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, and let chiles cool.

When ingredients are cool, blend the ancho chiles, tomato, chipotle chiles(s), garlic, peanuts, cloves and vegetable broth (cooled or at room temperature) in a blender. If the sauce is too thick, thin with water. Set aside.

The reason for using cool ingredients is that many blenders contain plastic parts, especially the lid. Hot liquids on plastic can leach harmful chemicals into the food. For the same reason, please don’t wash plastic items in the dishwasher.

Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a pan on medium-high. Sauté mushrooms until almost all the water water has boiled off, about 9 or 10 minutes. Reduce heat, add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add spinach and sauté until wilted, about a minute or two. Turn off heat and set aside.

Fill a frying pan with canola oil to about a 1/4 inch depth. Heat oil on medium high until oil starts to shimmer. Place tortillas in the hot oil and cook for about 10 seconds on each side. (When the oil is hot enough, there should be bubbling and sizzling around the edge of the tortilla.) Drain on paper towels.

In a large baking dish, spread 1 cup of sauce evenly along the bottom. Fill each tortilla with just under 1/4 cup of the mushroom-spinach filling and 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Roll up and place seam side down on the baking dish. Top with remaining sauce and grated cheese. Heat, uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Watercress Salad with Cilantro Dressing
Serves 4

One of the purposes of this blog is to expand the idea of what Latin food is and can be. And so I go to the public library to research recipes. As I said in a previous blog post, recipes in little-known cookbooks don’t always work. On the other hand, when they don’t work, there is a lot of opportunity to be creative and improve them. If you have the time and the patience, this is one way to invent your own recipes.

We associate watercress with sandwiches at English high tea, but it is a common salad green in Mexico. This recipe originally came from Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro. But the “dressing” was a kind of pesto that was way too thick to put over a salad. My husband and I ended up eating it on spaghetti. And so back to the drawing board tinkering with cilantro dressing recipes until one came out right. Then I added orange slices and pine nuts for garnish. Hope you like it! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Dressing
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Salad
2 bunches watercress
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup queso fresco or to taste
4 orange slices

Whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic, cilantro and olive oil in a bowl. Set aside.

To toast the nuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the nuts on a baking sheet, and toast for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Remove watercress leaves from the thick stems and rinse. Pat the leaves dry gently so not to bruise or crush them.

Place watercress on 4 salad plates, pour dressing on and top with queso fresco and pine nuts. Cut orange slices into quarters and place them at the edges of each salad, two at the bottom of the plate, and two at the top.

 

 

 

 

Chorizo Tostadas with Mango Salsa
Makes 2 tostadas

Chorizo and mango is a marriage made in heaven. So I found out in this recipe of my own invention. Chorizo is a very soulful, vibrant and pungent element of Mexican cooking that pairs well with the cool sweetness of the mango.

I love chorizo, even though for humane and environmental reasons, I eat as little meat as possible. Fortunately, there is humanely and sustainably-raised meat. And for vegetarians, there is soy chorizo, such as Soyrizo. However, Soyrizo has so much vinegar, it overpowers the other ingredients in your dish. If I were you, I would either find another brand of soy chorizo with vinegar far down on the ingredients list, or try soy Andouille sausage.

You can find thin corn tortillas in well-stocked supermarkets. Rick Bayless, that guru of Mexican cooking, says thin tortillas are good to use for tostadas because they don’t puff when frying. I would say that they also add a lighter, more contemporary element to your tostadas.

Buen provecho! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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Mango Salsa
1 cup chopped mango
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon canola oil

Tostadas
2 thin corn tortillas
1 15 ounce can black beans
6 ounces pre-cooked chorizo, cut into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup lettuce, chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil plus enough oil to fill frying pan to 1/2 inch depth
salt to taste

In a bowl, mix together chopped mango, green onion and cilantro with lime juice and oil. Set aside.

Fill a frying pan with canola oil to about 1/2 inch depth. Heat oil a minute or two on medium high until you see the surface start to ripple. Fry the tortillas one at a time about a minute on each side, until the tortillas are crisp. Drain on paper towels, and set aside.

In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil on medium heat. Add chorizo and brown for about 5 minutes. I used Aidell’s pre-cooked chicken chorizo, but you can use fresh chorizo. Just remove the casings, and cook on medium high for about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove chorizo from pan and set aside.

Drain the can of beans and set aside the water in a cup or glass. In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil on medium. Add chopped garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add beans. Add enough of the water so that the beans are not too soupy and not too dry. Taste the beans, and add salt if necessary. Heat the beans all the way through, about 2 minutes or so. Turn off the heat.

Place beans and chorizo on fried tortillas. Top with about 1/2 cup of your favorite lettuce per tostada and mango salsa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercress Salad with Pine Nuts
Serves 4 to 6

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a nice holiday season. I haven’t posted in a while because of the holidays and other things in life getting in the way. But I guarantee you’re going to love this exquisite and sophisticated salad.

This recipe is from Cocina de la Familia, by Marilyn Tausend, a collection of interesting and sophisticated recipes from Mexican-American home kitchens. She says that watercress is a common and well-loved salad green in Mexico and doesn’t understand why it isn’t more popular in the United States. I have added my own twist to this recipe, as usual.

Although pine nuts are very expensive per pound, remember that you can significantly reduce costs by buying only as much as you need at a time from the bulk foods bins at natural foods stores and upscale markets. Also, a lot of pine nuts come from China and sometimes Russia, but if you look around, you can find some grown in the United States. It’s always better to buy local (or as local as you can) because climate change is here, and local foods mean less fossil fuel is consumed in getting the food to stores.

Enjoy this nutritious and delicious salad. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Dressing
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

The Salad
2 bunches watercress
3 white Belgian endive
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Set aside.

To toast the nuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the nuts on a baking sheet, and toast for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Remove watercress leaves from the thick stems and rinse. Pat the leaves dry gently so not to bruise or crush them. Slice the endives diagonally, and discard the cores. Combine the watercress and endive in a salad bowl.

Right before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.

Refried Beans with Chorizo
Makes 4 to 6 servings

The other day I was over at my mother’s house thumbing through an old copy of Saveur magazine, when I saw an article by Richard Rodriguez, one of my all-time favorite writers. Richard Rodriguez wrote Hunger of Memory, a poetic and beautiful memoir of his education from elementary school through graduate studies at UC Berkeley. Hunger of Memory is also an account of the intimacy and closeness of his family life and how his education ended up separating him from his Mexican immigrant parents. I loved his lyrical writing so much, I read it twice.

The Saveur article was about refried beans and chorizo, a dish his father used to make. It was a fixture in the Rodriguez home, and I am thrilled to feature it on my blog.

Many years ago, I went to hear Richard speak at Grace Cathedral, whose Forum series features various artists and writers in conversation. Afterwards, the public could meet and talk with him. Besides Hunger of Memory, I was a big fan of his video essays on the PBS NewsHour. I went up to meet him, so nervous I was literally shaking in my shoes and trying hard not to show it. To this day, I don’t know why. I told him he had beautiful thoughts, and he was very nice.

This recipe is from that 2010 issue of Saveur; it is not from Richard’s family. But as usual, I have changed a few things. For health and environmental reasons, I have substituted olive oil for lard. Chorizo is usually made with pork, but there are also chicken and soy versions. I tested the recipe using both precooked chicken and soy chorizo. The recipe made with soy chorizo had a less pungent taste and a different texture, but it was absolutely delicious. And the beans were even better the next day! Whatever chorizo you use, you’ll be going back for seconds; I promise.

In these beans, Richard Rodriguez said, “I tasted my father.” I think what he meant was he tasted home.

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3 cups dried pinto beans
6 ounces fresh chorizo, casings removed and cut into small pieces
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for cooking chorizo
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Place beans in a large pot with 12 cups of water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook beans for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until beans are very tender. Check the pot a time or two during cooking to make sure all the water hasn’t boiled off. Add more water if necessary. When beans are done, set aside 3 cups of cooking water and drain. Return beans to pot.

While the beans are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add precooked chicken or soy chorizo and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. (Note: if using uncooked pork chorizo, use medium-high heat, break up chorizo into small pieces, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.) Set aside.

Mash beans in pot with a potato masher while adding olive oil. Add half the chorizo. Heat beans on medium and add 2 cups of reserved cooking water (add more water, if you prefer). Stir frequently, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve beans hot with remaining chorizo and chopped cilantro.

Potato Quesadillas
Makes 4 quesadillas

The Biblical saying that there is nothing new under the sun is eternally true. In life and in cooking. The same is true with trying to come up with new and different recipes; we sometimes end up with new takes on old standards, like quesadillas.

At first glance, potato in a warmed tortilla with melted cheese seems to be an odd combination. Too much carbohydrate, right? And potatoes – meat and potatoes in particular – are such an integral part of European and American cooking. What are they doing in a Latin recipe? Well, potatoes as we know them are native to South America and were brought back to Europe by the Spanish in the 1500s. So it’s a quintessentially Latin dish after all.

These potato quesadillas make a terrific appetizer for holiday potlucks, and a light meal for any time of the day, breakfast, lunch or dinner. This particular recipe was inspired by  the one in Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking. His recipe has no cheese and uses low-fat sour cream and fat-free flour tortillas. Mine includes cheese and uses corn tortillas instead.  I think corn tortillas are much more flavorful and have a better texture than flour. But still, it’s matter of personal preference.

Have them for breakfast with a good cup of chocolate. Buen provecho! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 large russet potato
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 chipotle chile in adobo chopped, seeded
1 tablespoon of adobo sauce, strained, seeds removed
8 corn tortillas
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

First, bake the potato. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the potato and pierce it 2 or 3 times with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or until the potato is soft, and you can pierce it all the way through with a fork. Let the potato cool, then peel. Discard or eat the peel (potato skins are delicious!) Mash the potato, then set aside.

If the tortillas have been refrigerated (and they should be after purchase), set them out on a rack or plates to dry while the potato is baking. The reason for this is that if the package of tortillas is refrigerated, water condenses on the inside, and the moisture will cause the tortillas to stick to the pan while cooking.

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until the onions are golden brown, about 6 minutes.

When onions are browned, add the chicken broth, chopped chipotle chile, adobo sauce, and the potato. Mix well and simmer until all the chicken broth has been absorbed, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt or salt to taste and mix.

Heat another skillet or griddle on medium until a drop of water dances and sizzles when you sprinkle it. Wait a few seconds until all the water is gone, then place a tortilla in the skillet, add 1/4 cup of the potato mixture and 1/2 cup of cheese. Spread evenly. Place another tortilla down on top and press down with a spatula. Heat quesadilla for about 1 minute on each side, taking care that the tortillas do not get crisp. Repeat with remaining tortillas, potato mixture and cheese.

Cut quesadillas into quarters, and place on a serving platter or plates. Garnish with chopped tomato and cilantro, and serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poblano Mushroom Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce

This recipe is a knockout. And I have anecdotal proof: My husband, who is culinarily hard to please, couldn’t stop raving about it. It’s a little more work than usual, so you might want your sous chef, that is, a friend, partner or child, to help you. They won’t be sorry.

The fun thing about developing your own cuisine is that you can mix and match existing recipes to make new ones, then add a few tweaks of your own. The filling for these enchiladas, for instance, comes from Bon Appetit’s recipe for poblano and mushroom tacos. The avocado cilantro cream sauce is from Gimme Delicious. And the enchilada assembly and baking is from The Recipe Critic’s Chicken Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce.

Together, they make something wonderful. So here are these recipes in combination, with a few minor modifications. And I know my pictures look like a movie star’s face before it’s been Photoshopped, but the food tastes great. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Filling
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium to large poblano chiles, seeded, sliced into strips
1 red onion, sliced
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons cumin
salt to taste (I recommend 1/2 teaspoon)

Heat oil in skillet on medium-high and add chiles, red onion and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, then add cumin and salt. Mix well and set aside.

The Avocado Cream Sauce
1 California avocado
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary. Set aside.

Make the filling and the cream sauce first, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees while you cook the tortillas.

The Tortillas
8 corn tortillas
olive oil

Tip: You will need to soften the tortillas in hot oil, so before doing so, please follow these safety measures. First, make sure your frying pan is dry. Any water in the oil will turn to steam while you’re cooking, causing the hot oil to pop and splatter. Second, heat the oil gradually, allowing any steam to escape. You can also cover the pan with a fine mesh splatter guard; I recommend doing that. 

Fill a frying pan with olive oil to about 1/4 inch depth. Heat oil on medium-high, then cook tortillas in hot oil for about 10 seconds on each side, and place on paper towels to drain.

Assembling the Enchiladas
Place a softened tortilla down on a plate, spread 1 tablespoon of avocado cream sauce down the center. Add some of the poblano mushroom filling. Roll the tortilla up and place seam side down in a baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spread the rest of the avocado cream sauce over the tops of the enchiladas. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove enchiladas from the oven, garnish with a few springs of cilantro and serve.

Buen Provecho!